There are many misconceptions about education with one being that you only get one shot at it in life. This couldn’t be further from the truth as far as Adult Learner’s Week Wales and the Inspire Awards are concerned.
The Inspire Awards celebrates the achievements of individuals within Wales across a number of categories. It focuses on the changes people have made to their lives and the community around them with education at the heart of it all.
Rosemary Probert won the Inspire award for Outstanding Progression through Learning at the 2016 awards and her story reinforces why these awards are so important.
Despite responsibilities at home and certain aspects of education she found challenging, she was able to carve out a career she loved by building on skills that came to her naturally.
I was curious to hear just how Rose navigated her way through these obstacles and learn about her journey.
Safeera Sarjoo: What was your early relationship like with education? Did you enjoy learning and what were your aspirations?
Rosemary Probert: I enjoyed education but found some aspects of it difficult for example reading. I found reading difficult as I come from a single parent family with two other siblings, one of which is physically and mentally disabled. As a result, time would be limited to sit down with my mum to read. I lacked self-esteem therefore I didn't have the confidence to push myself.
I thoroughly enjoyed my primary school years as I didn't really have much worries other than going to school. Secondary school was fine too but unfortunately, I found the concept of mathematics extremely difficult. I feel this is where I allowed my barriers to interfere with my GCSEs and I left school with low grades.
Due to low self - esteem I didn't really have high expectations or aspirations to really say what I wanted to do career wise. I always enjoyed helping and caring for people, as I would have been classed as a young carer as I looked after my disabled brother with my mum. So, I guess working with children with additional learning needs was my career route.
SS: What would you say were the main obstacles you faced?
RP: My obstacles I would say were self-esteem, low GCSEs results, and having to care for a sibling who is disabled. My breakthrough came from a Launch Adult Learning class based in Monkton in the local Primary school. I was friends with the coordinator at the time when she approached me and asked if I would like to join an English GCSE class. Due to my job at the time – and where I currently work – supporting children with additional learning needs in my local secondary school, I thought it would be good for progression to further my career goals.
SS: What motivated you to turn to education?
RP: What motivated me was being around positive role models who I worked with and always having the belief that I would and could achieve anything if I wanted to. As I worked in an education setting I was curious how the system worked and what was the drive for government to make policies and changes. So, I guess curiosity got me back into education and having a supportive mother who helped to look after my daughter who was small at the time so I could go to the lectures and classes.
SS: What did you enjoy the most about the English GCSE course with Launch?
RP: What I enjoyed was being part of learning without anyone looking down on me or sniggering if I made a mistake.
Also knowing that we were all in the same boat wanting to gain a GCSE for the first time and bettering our grade. My biggest enjoyment was when I first saw our tutor and I knew instantly I was going to enjoy and learn. The tutor was a wonderful teacher who I felt at ease with. Another reason why I engaged was because it was in my community and with people I knew.
SS: How did education lead to you becoming an Inspire! Award Winner in 2016?
RP: To this day, I am still shocked and amazed that I won the award. From doing an English GCSE, I had the confidence to study further after gaining a grade B. I had the opportunity to study for a degree again from Launch’s community learning from Trinity Saint David’s Carmarthen. I studied a foundation degree in Inclusive Studies in Education, gaining a first-class BA honour. What was unique was that the lecturers came to us. From that day on I never looked back. My learning journey has been amazing and engaging. I can't thank the people involved enough for giving me the opportunity to succeed and to be able to be positive role model for adult learning.
SS: You mentioned that you had low self-esteem when tackling mathematics but did caring for your sibling give you any kind of confidence boost? Could that have been a sign that working with people was where your career could be heading?
RP: I always lacked self-esteem within an educational setting, particularly because I was ashamed that I couldn’t do some of the work as well as my peers. I guess caring has always been part of my DNA as I have been doing it since I was three years old dealing with my brother’s seizures. Caring then just became natural and I was able to demonstrate empathy and an understanding to an individual’s needs.
SS: Why do you think events like Adult Learner’s Week is important to raise awareness?
RP: Adult Learner's Week is imperative to give adults the opportunity to seek out relevant courses which they may like to take up. For some adults it may just be the case that they don't know what courses are available. This is why Adult Learner's Week is a great way to engage with the public and potential learners. If it wasn't for my adult learning classes I wouldn't be in the great position I am in today.
Remember you are all in the same boat, so don't let your fears stand in the way. The course providers and teachers will guide you every step of the way.
SS: Do you have any advice for people who may be thinking about going back into education?
RP: My advice would be, take the first step to a brighter, fun and interesting journey. You never know where it may take you. Look at me I have a degree, an award for progression and a great job now managing my own special needs class.
Do something for yourself. Reach and aim high.
Have a Go month is running all of June. Be sure to check out our Welsh events calendar to see what taster courses are running in your local area!
Safeera is Editor of Whatuni and a journalist from Kingston University. Always the inquisitive, her writing spans across a number of areas such as sustainability, fashion, lifestyle and now education. Her belief that you never stop learning and passionate nature has taken her to New York City as part of her degree and across the airwaves on national radio talking about the issues that matter to her.