A day in the life of a learner

10th January 1997 at 00:00
Nigel Padley from Scunthorpe is a 40-year-old steel worker.

"Learning to read and write at 40 was the hardest thing I have ever done. First I had to admit to myself that I needed help, then I had to ask strangers for that help. It was hard work for the first two years, but I think it was the best thing I have ever done.

"I always used to write on anything I sent to Liz (his wife) 'To Liz, all my love, from Nigel.' She once asked me if that was all I could spell. It was years before she found out it was."

Peter Rolls is retired head of printing and photography at RAE, Farnborough. He now lives in Camberley, Surrey.

"This is really a daft idea. Keeping a learner's diary. It's hard enough to crank up your urge every week. But now they want us to sit down and write about it, record our impressions, what it's like to be a learner. Well, I can tell them: creative writing is hard going, especially with Miss Wigmold's vowels. I can't get the drift half the time. I'm calling it Mrs Cribbin's Chronicle, though I might change my mind about the apostrophe. I think we're doing them in week 4.

"We had to go down to the church hall to sign on. It's not as though I wanted to do this class at all. I fancied the country cooking but it was full. It's always full. The same women every year, baking great puddings and cakes. No wonder they look cheerful and rosy-cheeked; it's indecent. Education is for improving your mind, not stuffing your face."

Julie Smithson from Wakefield and her 10-year old son fled to a women's aid refuge in Leeds in 1994 to escape from a violent man.

"The refuge was near Park Lane College. One day, I was walking past and impulsively decided to walk in. I felt silly as all the students looked so much younger. After speaking to a nice lady we decided as I had no qualifications that the 'Women into Work' course would be the best way to get started.

"Although my confidence at that time was nil, I couldn't wait. In a way I had my violent ex-partner to thank for this.

"My confidence in general is definitely growing. I join in and now make comments and suggestions, and don't feel embarrassed if I get it wrong. This is definitely the best thing I have ever done and I wish I'd done it sooner. "

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