Reporter 420, 11 May 1998

Fruits of success for returner-learners pioneers

When painter Bernard Vickers and fellow ancillary workers signed up for the University’s Return to Learn (R2L) scheme, they had to suffer colleagues’ jibes about “going back to school”. But next week the group of University staff will be proud as Punch when they collect an Adult Learners’ Week award for their efforts.

The pioneering R2L is a partnership between the University and the trade union UNISON aimed at University ancillary staff who have been out of education for some time and who have few or no formal qualifications.

Taking advantage of the 60 hours of paid educational leave provided by the University have been a cleaner, groundsman, storeman/driver, pavior, handygang, cashier, electrician, plumber, plumber’s mate, postal assistant, planner, and painter whose ages ranged from 30 to 60. On Sunday 17 May they will be presented with an Adult Learners’ Week award after being highly commended in the TEC Business Awards.

Senior Training and Development Officer Debbie Greenwood says the group achieved increased confidence from the course, which was accredited through the Open College Network.

“The main difficulty was taking the first step, given the negative attitudes and jokes from colleagues,” recalls Bernard Vickers. “But there was a feeling of solidarity and group support which ensured that no-one felt as if they were failing.”

Over ten months, the 14 students developed their skills in writing, investigating, analysing, communication, time-management and working with figures. They all gave up a substantial amount of their own time for personal study.

It was worth the effort, as Annette Lawson explains: “We reached a higher standard of work than we ever dreamed possible and we have all had short stories published. Now we feel that we’re not merely workers, but part of the educational institution itself.”

All are continuing with their education, and nine are currently completing an information technology course.

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