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Sign of the times

(Photograph) - An introduction to sign language for deaf people is just one of 20 different two-hour courses run by Reid Kerr's learning centre at Ferguslie Park in Paisley.

Once a byword for severe disadvantage, Ferguslie Park is now what Letitia Fraser, the centre's co-ordinator, prefers to describe as "an improving area". Even so, more than half of the community's 4,300 people are classed as "income-deprived".

The learning centre caters for around 200 students at any one time and MsFraser believes it is tapping into a genuine desire for learning - even if only to taste and sample. Indeed, when the centre opened in 2001, it had 70 students in the first week.

"A lot of people just want to see what a course is like," Ms Fraser says.

"Many of them have no idea until they come through the door, especially if it's been a while since they've attended a class. Many are hooked, though, and go on to college."

The range of offerings provides plenty to sample - from the basics of IT to digitalphotography, from first aid to HIV studies, and from psychology to Spanish.

Age ranges are equally diverse, from the P6 and P7 group who use the cyber-cafe on Wednesday evenings to grapple with digital media, to the 80-year-old studying for the European Computer Driving Licence. Photograph by CHRIS JAMESEPICSCOTLAND

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