A SINGLE mum of gypsy traveller descent from Pembroke is supporting Adult Learners’ Week after adult education helped her achieve her dream of working with special needs children.
Rose Probert, 41, helped care for her disabled brother from a young age. She dreamed of becoming a special needs teacher, but learning wasn’t a priority in her community and she left school without any grade C or above GCSEs.
For years, Rose worked as a cleaner while also caring for her brother and bringing up her daughter, but when she was employed as a Gypsy Support Officer at Pembroke School she had the opportunity to restart her education and completed a Level 3 Award for Teaching Assistants.
From there, Rose completed GCSEs in English and Maths, achieving B and C grades, and a Foundation Degree in Education and Social Inclusion, studying for an extra year to graduate with a BA First Class honours degree. In September 2017, Rose completed a postgraduate course in special needs, gaining a distinction, and this year she plans to begin a Masters in mental health and wellbeing.
Rose is supporting Adult Learners’ Week 2018, which takes place from 18-24 June to highlight opportunities to continue developing and learning new skills as an adult and celebrate the positive impact of adult education on skills and employability.
Rose said: “Growing up with caring responsibilities in a traveller community made it difficult for me to achieve at school; my caring responsibilities took up a lot of my time and learning was always put on the backburner. When I was younger I didn’t have the maturity or self-belief I have now, for me that’s something that came with age, but as my daughter grew older I wanted her to see how important education is. Initially, I said yes to the opportunity to learn again to set an example to her.
“That first teaching assistant course opened my eyes. I didn’t know anything about adult education, I thought I’d missed my chance to learn and I’d given up on my dream of ever becoming a special needs teacher. Suddenly I realised there were opportunities open to me and my dream was still possible. It took several courses, and a lot of hard work, but completing my postgraduate certificate granted me permission to finally work in special needs. Words can’t express how proud I am of what I’ve achieved or how far I’ve come in just a few years.”
In 2016, Rose received an Inspire! Award for progression. She’s now employed full time as an Access to Learning Manager for Additional Learning Needs children.
Rose continued: “I work at Pembroke Comprehensive School – the same secondary school I attended. It’s in quite a socially deprived area with a large proportion of pupils on free school meals and a high number of children with special educational needs. I’m in charge of a class of 70 pupils, teaching between six and 12 at any one time. The work is everything I hoped it would be, I know I’m doing something which makes a difference to the lives of other people.
“I’ve had some fantastic support along the way. The partnership between Monkton school Pembroke and Trinity St David’s University got me on my first course, I wouldn’t be where I am today without it. My current employer Pembroke Comprehensive School is also extremely supportive and helped with gathering information for my postgraduate work.
“I can’t wait to start my Masters in Mental Health and Wellbeing in September, it’s a subject I’m really interested in and passionate about. A lot of my pupils display signs of mental health issues, so the course will help in my day-to-day work, but I’m also just looking forward to learning again. Education gave me the drive to carry on, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed every minute of it.”
Adult Learners’ Week 2018 is running from 18-24 June and celebrates lifelong learning, whether work-based, as part of a community education course, at college, university or online. Now in its 27th year, it aims to promote the range of courses available to adult learners, from languages to computing or childcare to finance.
Eluned Morgan, Minister for Welsh Language and Lifelong Learning, said: “We often think of education as something we do when we’re young, but learning is a lifelong activity.
“Rose is a perfect example of someone who has benefited from the opportunity to go back into education as an adult. Adult learning has been linked to improvements in health, overall wellbeing and social engagement. We want to ensure every person in Wales has access to the skills they need to help our communities thrive.
“Skills are vital to our economy and we want to support adults to gain the ones they need to find, or progress in, their chosen career. We hope Adult Learners’ Week will inspire people of all ages across Wales to find out more about how they can develop their skills. Skills Gateway for Adults also offers a range of careers advice and guidance for anyone looking to improve their skills and employability or get back into work.”
David Hagendyk, Director for Wales at Learning and Work Institute, said: “Going back into education has enormous benefits for adults. The evidence shows that it can improve your health, family life, the chance of a job, or a promotion at work. Taking that first step back into adult education might seem a little daunting at first but there is always someone to lend a helping hand and to support you along the way.
“Adult Learners’ Week has been running in Wales for 27 years and has helped hundreds of thousands of adults right across the country. It’s a great time to take the plunge to learn a new skill, meet new people and learn about something you have always been passionate about. With the world changing so quickly around us it is more important than ever that all of us are learning throughout our lives. Now is the perfect time to start.”
Adult Learners’ Week is funded by The Welsh Government and the European Social Fund and organised by the Learning & Work Institute Wales.
Local students shine at skills competition
KATIE WAITE and Ben Thomas, from Pembrokeshire and Llanelli, have won a gold medal in the photography and coaching final of a national skills competition.
Backed by the Welsh Government through the European Social Fund, Skills Competition Wales is a series of events held in colleges across the country, designed to celebrate vocational skills and create highly skilled, talented employees for the Welsh workforce.
Katie, 18, who is studying foundation art, competed against 18 other students from across Wales in a photography challenge. The competitors were tasked with creating photography that focused on the theme discovering Wales.
Katie said: “I am over the moon to have won the photography competition.
“’Discovering Wales’ was the theme of the competition and we had to base our photography around the great outdoors, adventure and culture.
“I focused on the cultural aspect of the brief by looking at how the landscape of Wales reflects its culture.
“It was fascinating to see other people’s work at the competition and see how different people can interpret a brief and show their creativity in other aspects.
“I love photography as it can capture a moment in a unique way and shows another way of seeing things.”
Ben, 21, who is studying level two fitness instructing, competed against 17 other students from across Wales in a series of coaching challenges in within one hour. The competitors were tasked with coaching a one on one strength training session, warm up and circuit session.
Ben said: “Competing in the coach competition was a big success for me that has brought me closer to achieving my goal in making a real difference to people.
“Last year I was struggling with both my physical and mental health and turned to fitness. I got a personal trainer, Zak Hearne, who helped me lose three stone in three months which had a hugely positive impact on my mental health.
“Being able to make the same difference with other people is something I want to achieve in the future through personal training.
“For me, it’s all about pushing people to achieve great things and showing people that they can do anything if they put their mind to it and aim high.”
More than 40 competitions are taking place this year, across a wide range of different vocations from forensic science and fashion technology to 3D game and food preparation.
Those who are successful may then go on to be shortlisted for the UK Squad, competing against the world’s most talented young people at the WorldSkills international final in Shanghai, China in 2021.
Minister for Economy and Transport, Ken Skates said: “Skills Competition Wales is such an important event, allowing multi-talented young people the length and breadth of Wales to put their skills to the test, building on their excellence and experiences across various fields with the opportunity to then progress and compete at UK national and international level.
“It’s also an opportunity to show the breadth of talent we have here in Wales and to celebrate the Welsh companies who are nurturing and reaping the rewards of such highly skilled, talented employees. Ensuring Wales has the skills needed for economic success has long been a priority for me personally and for the Welsh Government more broadly and it’s fantastic to see skills acknowledged in this way.
“I would like to say well done to everyone who has competed this year and add my congratulations to Katie and Ben on their brilliant achievement. Best of luck to them in the next stage of the competition and I look forward to seeing them prosper in their future careers.”
Vocational qualifications importance emphasised
THE IMPORTANCE of vocational qualifications to the Welsh economy was emphasised at the launch of this year’s VQ Awards in Wales at the Senedd in Cardiff.
Speakers called for vocational qualifications to have parity of esteem with academic qualifications and for the Welsh Government to continue prioritising investment in the sector.
Iestyn Davies, chief executive of ColegauCymru/CollegesWales, said Wales was one of the remaining parts of the world where there had been a reluctance to recognise the value of vocational qualifications.
Academic qualifications had hogged the limelight when young people were considering a career path. However, he believed a significant change was underway with politicians now accepting the key importance of vocational qualifications to the economy of Wales.
He called on the people assembled at the launch event to spread the word about the success of vocational qualifications and lifelong learning in Wales to ensure that the Welsh Government continued to prioritise investment in the sector.
Vikki Howells, AM for Cynon Valley, who sponsored the launch event, said during her 16-year teaching career she had wished that there was a greater vocational offer for her students.
There remained a challenge to make young people and their parents, who played a crucial role in directing their children, embrace everything that vocational qualifications had to offer.
She praised the Welsh Government for the work it had already done and continued to do to promote vocational qualifications.
The VQ Awards are jointly organised by the Welsh Government, the National Training Federation for Wales (NTfW), ColegauCymru/CollegesWales, Qualifications Wales and the Education Workforce Council. The Welsh Government’s funding has support from the European Social Fund.
The Education Workforce Council’s chair Angela Jardine said it was exciting to be a new partner in the high-profile awards which celebrated the success and high standards achieved in vocational education to create the Wales of the future.
By maintaining a Register of Education Practitioners, the council aimed to contribute to improving the standards of teaching and the quality of learning in Wales. The register would provide the professional evidence to achieve parity of esteem between vocational and academic qualifications, she added.
Sarah John, chair of the NTfW, said: “The VQ Awards provide a great opportunity for learners, employers and their trainers to celebrate and publicise the positive impact that vocational qualifications have on the lives of individuals and the productivity of businesses in Wales. Upskilling in the changing vocational skills needed by businesses to be competitive is critical as they continue to evolve.”
Cassy Taylor, Associate Director for Vocational Qualifications with Qualifications Wales, said: “Vocational qualifications are the gateway to a rewarding career and we are delighted to be sponsoring the VQ Awards again this year.
“The awards are a perfect way to showcase the talent of learners and the commitment of tutors and employers to develop the skills in our workforce that are the bedrock of the economy.”
Stacey Davies, Human Resources Manager at Gestamp Tallent Ltd, an automotive manufacturer from Llanelli, spoke about the company winning the VQ Employer of the Year Award last year.
“Winning this prestigious award was an immensely proud moment for the plant,” she said. “To be recognised for the early accomplishments of an ambitious but exciting learning and development strategy continues to be very encouraging for all the stakeholders.”
Vocational qualifications play a key role in the Gestamp Tallent Growth Programme, which aims to upskill the entire workforce by creating tailor-made, individual development plans, revamping an apprenticeship programme and introducing leadership and management solutions and a programme for high potential employees.
The VQ Awards are designed to recognise and celebrate star learners, trainers and employers in every part of Wales who have used technical, practical and vocational qualifications to achieve success.
Nominations are now sought in four categories: VQ Intermediate Learner of the Year, VQ Higher Learner of the Year, VQ Trainer of the Year and VQ Employer of the Year. It’s easy to enter the awards. Just download a nomination form at https://www.vqday.wales which has full details about the awards. The closing date is noon on March 8.
From the entries, a panel of judges will select the category finalists for a high-profile awards ceremony to be held at the National Museum of Wales, Cardiff on May 15 to coincide with VQ Day.
Big leap in part-time students
THERE has been a massive 35% increase in part-time undergraduates from Wales, thanks to the Welsh Government’s radical new student support package.
The statistics report on the new student support system for the first time, also showing a 58% increase in the number of postgraduates supported. Welsh post-grads were eligible for dedicated bursaries and support from Welsh universities this year, thanks to Welsh Government funding. Means-tested grants and loans will be introduced from September.
There is no Government-backed living costs grant funding for part-time undergraduates or post-graduate students elsewhere in the UK. Last year, the Education Minister set a goal of a 10% increase in the number of Welsh post-graduate students by the end of this Government’s term.
The Education Minister, Kirsty Williams, said: “This is fantastic news and a real vote of confidence in our student support package, the first of its kind in the UK or Europe.
“We have always said that high living costs are the main barrier for students when thinking about university. Our package of support was specifically designed to address these concerns, making it easier for people to study part-time, especially if they have work or family commitments.
“Our radical approach to supporting part-time study is essential to improving social mobility, employment outcomes, access to the professions and delivering on our commitment to lifelong learning.”
Louise Casella, Director of The Open University in Wales, said: “The OU in Wales saw a 49% increase in our October student recruitment last year. This represents hundreds of more people embarking on learning that will transform the lives of their families and communities. We’ve had a 67% increase in students from Wales’ most economically disadvantaged areas, a 57% increase in disabled students and a 30% increase in BME learners.
“I am pleased the Welsh Government is highlighting the impact the new funding system is having on part-time study in Wales. With maintenance grants now available for part-time distance learners as well, flexible study has never been more affordable. This is helping The OU in Wales make studying for a degree a reality for those who may not have considered it in the past.”
Julie Lydon, Chair of Universities Wales, said: “We are delighted to see this increase in the number of students choosing to study part-time in Wales, clearly demonstrating that the new student support and higher education funding package in Wales is working.
“In the coming decade, Wales will face many challenges from the changing workplace and advancements in technology. These changes will mean that Wales will need a more highly skilled workforce.
Flexible learning, such as part-time study, will play a key role in preparing the people, places and businesses of Wales for the future.
“This increase in part-time and postgraduate study shows that, with the new student support and higher education funding package in Wales, we are on the right path to providing people of all ages and backgrounds with opportunities to benefit from higher education.”
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