And the Oscar goes to ..

5th September 2008 at 01:00
From a visually impaired 22-year-old to a grandfather aged 94, we meet people whose lives have changed through learning

Scotland's "oscars" for lifelong learning have found a new star, Rosslyn Clusker, a Dunfermline learner.

She was named Champion Learner of 2008 at learndirect scotland's celebration of learning, held in Glasgow yesterday. Rosslyn has had to overcome mental-health problems to battle her way through her studies, and was also named Personal Achiever of 2008.

The annual event, now run by Skills Development Scotland which has absorbed learndirect scotland, showcases the experiences of people whose lives have been changed through learning.

Rosslyn, 26, has completed a number of courses through learn-direct scotland. She feels she would have been unable to deal with her problems, and achieve new skills, without the support and guidance she was given. "Having built up courage to attend the first class," she says, "my life began to change for the better. Through the courses, my confidence grew and grew, along with my trust in people. Through meeting new people and making friends, I realised I wasn't the only person who suffered problems."

Another barrier to learning for Rosslyn was her dyslexia, which she felt was ignored at school. "Things couldn't have been more different at the Parkgate learning centre in Rosyth: they took into account that I was dyslexic, and would do their utmost to give me support and extra guidance when I needed it."

Her tutor, Karen Roxburgh, said: "Rosslyn is so open and frank about her difficulties that she's been an inspiration to others and has helped them confront their problems."

Barriers of a different kind confronted Andrew Biggar, a 94-year-old grandfather from Melrose, who was named Senior Learner of 2008 at the event, which was hosted by broadcaster Shereen Nanjiani. His daughter persuaded him to buy a computer as a relief from caring for his wife, who had Alzheimer's.

By the time his wife went into a residential home, Andrew had become hooked on the computer. He enrolled in a series of classes at his learning centre and went on to another class to develop photography skills. "I cannot claim to have reached the end of the learning curve for either computer skills or digital photography but, by attending these classes, I have extended and improved my skills in both subjects," he said. "They have provided highly valuable `occupational therapy' so that, by engaging in one or the other at home, I find I am never bored or lonely."

An award at the other end of the age spectrum went to Jan Craig from Edinburgh, the Young Learner of 2008. The 22-year-old, who is visually impaired, said she found it difficult to find a college which had the software facilities to read out what was written onscreen. Eventually, she was recommended to the RNIB Scotland employment and learning centre and undertook a work placement in a hotel before enrolling on a computer course.

Job Finder of 2008 is Margaret Gallacher, from Port Glasgow, who got into learning after 18 years as a full-time mother to her four children. She took her first steps attending a First Aid course, moved on to the European Computer Driving Licence and is now a classroom assistant at a primary school in Port Glasgow.

Unemployment was the spur to learning for Chris Kotrys, 24, from Stirling, the Career Changer of the Year. He was made redundant after six years in the construction industry and he is now in the rather different world of work in a removal firm, having picked up training in driving a forklift along the way.

Danny Logue, director of careers at SDS, said: "Many of the people here have overcome personal barriers and have worked hard to get the skills which are so important in today's job market."

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