Single mum Abigail White was fed up with living on benefits – but her lack of qualifications and poor reading skills meant she couldn’t find a suitable job.
Abi, 23, from Amersham, who could only read basic sentences, decided to enrol on a Buckinghamshire Adult Learning course for functional English skills.
After just 18 months on the course, she is able to read books to her two children and is Buckinghamshire Adult Learning’s Joint Adult Learner of the Year.
She said: “I didn’t want to learn at school. I could read basic sentences but struggled with a lot of words. I was really bad. I was showing all the signs of dyslexia.
“This course has helped me so much. I am so much better. I now know how to help my kids with their homework. It doesn’t feel you are at school here – we are not being judged.”
Abi regularly attends the class, along with eight others, at an adult learning course in Chesham.
Clare Vieira, 35, a mother-of-four and a qualified hairdresser from Little Chalfont, is on the course to improve her English skills so she can help her children with their homework.
She said “I was too busy partying at school and didn’t give two hoots. I went into my GCSE exams after a night out and didn’t give a monkey’s.”
When Clare was 23, she was featured on ITV’s first series of ‘Ladette To A Lady’ – a prime-time television ‘finishing school’. She came fourth on the show.
She added: “This class has given me a lot more confidence and freshened my brain and I have learnt things that I missed at school because of my wild days. It’s for my children for when they come home and ask ‘what does this mean?’. Also, I am self-employed, so I have to better my English skills.”
Clare’s sister, Kayleigh Daniel, 30, a care worker from Amersham, is also on the course. She struggled at school and had to go to a reading clinic.
The mum-of-one said: “My concentration levels are non-existent. I am really poor with reading. This has given me more confidence and taught me how to do paragraphs and spellings. I am doing this so I can help my son do his homework.”
Nursery nurse Jenny Rogers, 40, a mother-of-two from Amersham, said: “I went to a special needs school for moderate learning difficulties and never did any GCSEs. I have always wanted to do this and am really enjoying it – it’s for my own personal benefit for when I go back to work.
“This has really helped me improve. I never did English at school or GCSEs. I want to learn for my girls when they go to school and want help. I don’t want to send them to school and not know what they are learning. I need to know what I am telling them is right in their schooling.”
The class is tutored by Amy Lloyd, a former primary school teacher. She teaches reading, comprehension, writing and speaking and listening – and says the course is midway towards a GCSE.
She said: “This course is for people for whom formal school didn’t work. It’s providing functional English for learners to read and write with confidence.
“They say because they are learning, it’s inspirational for their children. It’s really rewarding because you see the journey and see where they were. It’s given them aspirations and a zest for life.”
Abigail added: “I just want to work. If I am at home, I am twiddling my fingers – it’s boring. When I was voted Adult Learner of the Year earlier this year, I was shocked. I came home and was crying. I was shocked I had been noticed.
“I want to say to anyone who has done badly at school to do this course.”
To find out more about English courses run through Buckinghamshire Adult Learning, visit www.adultlearningbcc.ac.uk or phone 01296 382403.