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Miles of learning

You're never too old to learn, and even if you're not as agile as you were, the tuition can come to you

A mobile adult education and information service in rural Berkshire is now attracting more learners thanks to the STAR Awards.

John Ellis runs CLIVe (Community Learning and Information Vehicle), a purpose-built mobile classroom and computer suite, which offers adult education in the market towns and villages around Newbury. He was short listed last year for an Outstanding Learning Support award.

"It was a great honour to be selected," he says. "I was in all the local papers and it really highlighted to the public the work we do. More and more people are saying to me, 'We saw this', and 'We saw that', mentioning the awards. Others are coming forward saying that they had heard about the vehicle but didn't think it was for them, but they would later admit 'We were wrong'."

This mobile learning and information service came about through a partnership of local agencies, including West Berkshire council, Next Step information advice and guidance service, Newbury college and West Berks early years partnership. The 30-foot vehicle, run by Newbury library, houses a wireless IT suite which can be adapted into a classroom or meeting area for up to eight people. It also has a small office for one-to-one consultations.

"I think this is where this project is unlike any other," says John. "We can go anywhere and do anything. If someone wanted to talk about their educational needs and was reluctant to speak in front of others, they can come in and have a comfortable discussion in private."

John drives the mobile learning and information vehicle and offers a range of courses, including computer courses for older learners and basic skills tutoring for members of the traveller community.

The vehicle also operates as a mobile information centre, stopping in supermarket car parks and outside community halls to give advice and guidance on learning opportunities.

John was nominated for an award after notching up hundreds of such journeys to rural communities during the project's pilot phase. "Initially, when I was told I had been nominated for the particular group I was in, I thought why me? I didn't think I was good enough," he says.

"But I have to admit, once it was known locally that I had been nominated, the number of organisations I deal with that were sending me emails and telephoning encouragement and congratulations, it really brought it home to me that what I'm doing had more of an impact than I'd thought.

John, 58, previously worked in the electrical supply industry and IT. "I now cite my own experiences to people who have been made redundant around the 50 year-old mark. Your working life is definitely not over," he says.

"Look what I'm doing. Why can't you?"


Name: John Ellis Job: Facilitator for community learning and information vehicle, Newbury library Winning category: Shortlisted for Outstanding Learning Support Award, sponsored by learndirect

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