Proving that age is no barrier to achieving career ambitions or personal growth are two students who have shared their “life-changing” experiences of returning to the classroom.
Lifelong Learning Week, a national event that celebrates adult learners, is under way this week and is being marked across the county through a partnership of North Yorkshire Council’s Adult Learning Service and City of York Council’s York Learning.
Both services offer a wide range of adult courses designed to develop transferable skills, gain subject knowledge and experience in York and North Yorkshire. As a result, many adults from across Yorkshire have been inspired to either sign up to a career-changing course or learn a new skill.
Among those is Ron Bould, 69, who began oil painting when he joined the beginners’ oil painting course with York Learning. This was the first time he had used oil paints since a Christmas gift years ago. He enjoyed the course, exploring brush types, types of painting surfaces and the mixing of paints.
Mr Bould said: “I really enjoyed the course, as I received lots of support and encouragement from my tutors to produce and exhibit my own art works. The classes I have taken part in straddled Covid-19 and with it the debilitations of enforced isolation and impact on mental wellbeing.
“In my own case, this was further exacerbated by months of treatment for and recovery from cancer. During my treatment, for those periods when I could not paint, I sketched out and planned for future work. When I was in a position to paint again, the work I completed acted as a catharsis, helping me through a very difficult period in my life. I was encouraged to exhibit my work at City Screen Picturehouse in York.”
He added: “Even now I find the classes of great benefit. They provide an environment which spurs me on to create. There is a strong bond between the class, a working cohesion which I find helps me enormously.”
Meanwhile, another student, Lynsey Kirkham, is about to realise her dream of becoming a midwife after achieving a functional skills maths qualification with Adult Learning North Yorkshire.
Having worked in healthcare for a long time, the 34-year-old aspired to be a midwife, but needed a maths qualification to get a place on a midwifery degree course after failing maths at school. She successfully achieved her qualification in just three months and is now in her first year of studying midwifery at the University of Hull.
Miss Kirkham, from Scarborough, said: “It was definitely hard learning maths again as an adult. But everyone in the class was older, so you didn’t feel out of place. And the tutors were brilliant. I worked shifts while I was studying, so sometimes it was difficult for me to attend. My teacher was so supportive and made sure I was up to date with anything I had missed.”
About stepping back into the classroom as an adult, the mother-of-two added: “I didn’t have a lot of confidence in school as I have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), so I struggled as there wasn’t the support available that’s on offer now. Learning as an adult I realised that my ADHD wouldn’t hold me back and I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I actually enjoyed learning maths again. It was a life-changing experience for me.”
City of York Council’s executive member for health, wellbeing and adult social care, Cllr Jo Coles, said: “Ron’s paintings at City Screen are testimony that learning shouldn’t stop at 18. Opportunities to learn new skills can have a positive impact on health and wellbeing as well as employment opportunities. That’s why our adult learning strategy offers everyone the chance to learn new skills, take up a hobby or gain qualifications, with courses available online and in communities across the city.”
North Yorkshire Council’s executive member for education, learning and skills, Cllr Annabel Wilkinson, said: “In North Yorkshire, we want everybody to have the opportunity to access high-quality learning opportunities, regardless of what stage they are at in their lives or careers.
“Learning as an adult can be lifechanging, as it can help people to find a new job, progress in their current career, learn a new hobby, meet new and likeminded people, and increase confidence.”
Anyone who would like to find out more about adult learning courses in their area can visit www.northyorks.gov.uk/adultlearning for North Yorkshire or www.yorklearning.org.uk for York to find details of courses and how to apply and enrol. They can also find out how Adult Learning North Yorkshire and York Learning can support students through their studies, including assistance with course fees, childcare costs while they study and access to any additional resources they might need while studying as an adult learner.