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Festival of Learning - a celebration

Each year Adult Education Wolverhampton joins the biggest celebration of lifelong learning in England. We want to highlight the benefits of learning, celebrate the achievements of Wolverhampton adults who have used learning to transform their lives, and to encourage everyone to embrace lifelong learning.

This year we submitted four nominations to the awards, two individual learners and two groups, all truly inspiring, each highlighting the benefits of learning and the inspiring confidence that this brings. This year we are proud to announce that Karen Hanley-Brooks one of our English GCSE students has been recognised as a finalist.

Be inspired, read about our nominees and their amazing learning journey’s


Festival of Learning Finalist Karen Hanley-Brooks

Karen’s learning journey began with an Entry Level 3 Functional Skills English course at Adult Education Wolverhampton. Through her hard work and dedication she has quickly progressed to a GCSE course and volunteered with the Talk English programme to help others in the community improve their English language skills.

I grew up in St Kitts and dropped out of high school because all I wanted to do was work. Little did I know that education was the foundation I needed to build on.  

In 2016 my children and I had to move to the UK because my son needed urgent medical support for his autism. Being a single mother of two without any family living here was very challenging, and I saw that going back to learning was the only way to better myself and to have a brighter future.

Learning has given me hope and confidence and built my self-esteem. Both my experience of dealing with my non-verbal son and the English language skills I have gained at Adult Education Wolverhampton have allowed me to help other people whose first language is not English through my volunteering role with Talk English.

My greatest motivators are my children, especially my son who never allows his disabilities to discourage him from being the best he can be. Through learning, I have not only developed knowledge and skills for myself but am able to use these to help my children develop their own lives in a positive way.

Craig Watkiss, English teacher at Adult Education Wolverhampton said, “Karen’s dedication to her children shines through when she talks about her improvements in class and she is rightly proud that her skills enable her to better support them. Karen's hard work and dedication to improving her skills has also resulted in her achieving a Grade 5 qualification in GCSE English Language, including a distinction for her spoken assessment, which is yet another terrific achievement. Karen volunteered on our Talk English programme, and her supportive and kind nature is appreciated by all. She is a credit to herself, her children and this organisation.”

Jay Portman - BSL

I can say in confidence that Wolverhampton Adult Education has fully supported and nurtured me to successfully achieve a life goal.

Through learning the language from the ground up, I have gained a more in-depth understanding of BSL as a language, its importance and recognition, its culture and linguistics but also sub topics surrounding deafness and Deaf people such as mental health through the insight of the deaf teachers at Wolverhampton.

With the skills acquired with AEW, I plan to progress to a level 5 counselling diploma and continue my journey improving peoples’ wellbeing. This course has really helped me to focus and forge a career pathway as a counsellor, which fits perfectly with my life goal of assisting others.

Tony Edge, Teaching, Learning and Assessment Manager – BSL said, “I feel Jay deserves recognition because of the impact he has on those around him, and the challenges he has overcome during his learning journey.

Jay always gives out positivity to those around him and is always the student to whom classmates turn to for advice and help - always making other people feel more comfortable & confident. Jay tirelessly encourages others to try out new things and to educate themselves whatever their barriers.

 Tale of 2 Cities - Life Skills, Move On group

Life Skills classes develop the independent living skills of students with learning disabilities. The Tale of 2 Cities Project widened the horizons of ten Wolverhampton students with learning disabilities by joining them with students attending classes at two arts organisations in Gloucester. The project introduced them to new people, a new city and new experiences.

Participating students drew upon their own experiences, identifying common themes with the people of their home city from the past and identifying how these might be improved for the future. Students then looked further afield by connecting with the adult learners in their partner city which provided a fantastic opportunity to make friends, share knowledge and information and to find common ground with people outside their immediate community.

One of our aims is to help students to gain the skills to start thinking about undertaking work or volunteering. The opportunity therefore to set up an enterprise activity as part of the project gave them the chance to take part in a simulated work related activity where they were able to practice their transferable skills in a safe environment. Students have reported the confidence to take up volunteering following taking part in the project.

I am Harriet Pooler aged 27 and last year I took part in in the ‘Tale of 2 Cities’ project that linked our class with students from Gloucester.

I relied on my parents for everything and never went out without them until I joined the ‘Move On’ class 2 years ago. It is really important for me to develop my independence and be able to do things for myself. Last year has broadened my horizons, it was a fantastic year.

It was great to work with the students from Gloucester, to learn about them, to share information about our Cities and what we were learning in class. We found that we have so much in common.

It has given me the confidence to find volunteer work which is helping with my independence. My parents have seen a more confident me and have stepped back a little allowing me to grow and develop…which will benefit me greatly in the future.

Sian Fletcher Curriculum Manager Continuing Education said, “The impact has been enormous. Students were enabled to take part in activities way out of their comfort zone and normal day-to-day experience. The opportunity to meet new people and visit a new city provided the stretch and challenge they needed to demonstrate new independence and confidence.”

All4Art – Level 1, 2, 3 drawing/ painting NCFE group

‘All4Art’ is an art cooperative providing opportunities for further learning, development of skills, self-employment, shared interest and support with their mental health and wellbeing.

This group is a product of the qualifications, skills and opportunities that Adult Education Wolverhampton have provided. In the space of 4 years the students have gone from being individuals with many differing skills abilities and needs to being part of a self-sustaining art group.

The painting and drawing class came together and started their journey of creativity in April 2016 when they joined the beginner's art class at Adult Education Wolverhampton. Some joined independently and others progressed from ‘Like Minds’ classes aimed at helping individuals who are recovering from stress, anxiety or mild depression. Together as a group they completed all levels of NCFE Award in Creative Craft.

As part of their final Level 3 qualification they explored the possibility of self-employment and long term aspirations. This concluded in the group exploring and planning the formation of an independent art cooperative using a local community arts centre to fulfil their future creative requirements. The students went onto make this a reality and are now working as a cooperative called ‘All 4 Art’ at the Newhampton Arts Centre (NAC) in Wolverhampton. This facility is now open to the wider community.

Paul Owen the spokes-person for the group said “We have all come a long way in a short time through continuous learning. All4Art is a not for profit self-help group, diverse in age, gender, ethnicity, skills, abilities and needs, working together in a positive sprit of support encouraging each towards their full potential.

We contribute to the local community by employing artists to run masterclass workshops, frequently, covering a range of techniques, materials and styles. Enabling us to grow in ability and find our own preferred style. This approach is helping with the wellbeing of each member.  Continuous learning is helping those of more mature years to remain active mentally, socially, whilst maintaining dexterity and coordination; able to share their experience and knowledge. The younger members gain confidence, learn new skills and contribute energy and new ideas.  

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Last modified on Wednesday, 04 November 2020 09:31