The Inverclyde experience

13th April 2007 at 01:00
Martin Sloan, right, adult literacy learner and community learning activist, with a co-ordination problem and number blindness

"I've always known I had a problem with numbers. I've always hated them. A few years ago, things came to a head when I worked as a book-keeper and my figures were all out. Usually I avoided jobs involving numbers.

I approached the adult literacy workers at an open day in South West Library in Greenock. One agreed to meet me for an informal blether before starting the class.

I've always been nervous in social situations, but the teacher was sympathetic and encouraging. She presented the class as easy and worthwhile, and I started doing arithmetic immediately.

This expanded to doing a core skills class which included a lot of language work, equivalent to an O Grade in English which I was never allowed to sit at school. At the age of 12, I became short-sighted but wouldn't wear glasses because of bullying and my self-image. I liked English but not maths.

School was a negative experience but the adult classes were the opposite.

Two hours a week for 18 months with small classes, sometimes one to one, made the difference. Tutor attention makes you an enthusiastic learner.

I still have problems with numbers, the little beasts, but I'm editing our local adult literacy forum newsletter, Vice Versa, and I've spoken as a delegate at literacy conferences.

It's made me open to experiences outside my own spheres.

I want to encourage others to do these classes. They can help in so many ways: with job prospects, with family and relationships, and with general health and well-being, because you're interacting better with the world around you."

Claire Alexander, adult literacy co-ordinator for Inverclyde:

"Martin has come on leaps and bounds and is on the Awareness Forum, which represents the learners' in Inverclyde. There has not only been a massive change in him as a learner and as a more rounded person, but his level of community involvement is immense. He is learning new skills but, importantly, he is applying them.

Regular feedback shows us the real life impact - 'I've got a job', 'I've got promotion', 'I've opened a bank account', 'I've read to my child for the first time'. This is what it's all about."

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