In community halls around Wakefield, health and fitness courses have been helping to lure adults back into education. Tutor Geraldine Wriglesworth started her career as a fitness instructor. But now she uses her own skills to attract potential learners who would not ordinarily have ventured near a college.
She works for Wakefield community-based centres, run by the local education authority's adult education service. Her work is with a range of learners, including outreach basic skills tuition with families in the town's more disadvantaged communities, and with travellers.
Geraldine, 45, was among the first wave of the STAR Awards winners to be honoured at a ceremony in October, after winning the Adult and Community Learning Tutor of the Year award.
"It raises awareness of what's out there," said Geraldine. "People join a group to socialise and then see an opportunity to get back into education.
It can have unexpected outcomes."
Geraldine had worked as a fitness tutor for 16 years with Wakefield council's sports development unit when she began to see the potential of her work in helping people get back into education and training. Four years ago she began adult education work by providing keep fit classes in the community: "I learned an awful lot from being a tutor, from going out there and realising there are all these opportunities for learners."
Geraldine says that because the parent is already in her keep fit class, she can chat to them and find out if there is anything else they are interested in doing. After that, she helps them fill in a questionnaire.
"To identify what levels we're talking about, there are tasks I give students so I can assess their ability. Maths, English and computer skills are very popular," she says.
Some of her learners have gone on to become tutors themselves, after moving on to take a further education teaching qualification. Four of her fellow tutors started her classes as parents in the local communities. One of these is Stacey Ramskill, who has now changed careers after being inspired by Geraldine's classes. She had been a childminder before going on to take further education teaching qualifications and she now teaches family literacy and IT for Wakefield community-based centres.
"Geraldine really has that way with learners," says Stacey. "She's very encouraging and she supports people really well. She's good at building up people's self-esteem and confidence."
As well as tutoring family learning sessions, Geraldine also goes out to Wakefield's designated traveller site and works with other traveller groups who set up sites on roadsides. Again, she starts by doing health and fitness sessions for families and then gradually engages them in work to improve their basic skills. She has had particular success in attracting young male travellers into learning - a group acknowledged as hard to reach - by teaching them driving test theory and linking it to literacy and numeracy skills (pictured left).
Geraldine has seen her own skills and qualifications grow with her adult education work. She is currently in her final term completing a Certificate of Education at Wakefield College.
What difference has an award made to her? "I feel a lot more confident as a tutor," she says. "It was inspirational going to the ceremony and seeing everybody winning. It hits home how important our job is."
STAR AWARD WINNER
Name: Geraldine Wriglesworth. Job: Senior health and fitness tutor, Wakefield community-based centres. Winning category: Adult and Community Learning Tutor of the Year, sponsored by Niace