'I suppose you could call me self-taught; my mother was an avid book reader and taught me to read at the age of four. My life ever after was full of Enid Blyton and then progressed to Jane Eyre.  

Leaving school at fifteen I took a job as office junior for an estate agency which was in the next town. My formal education finished and family life, marriage and children took over. Out of necessity, I returned to work at the age of twenty-five as a ward maid in the local hospital and I joined the union as insurance against any unforeseen trouble that may come my way. After many years in healthcare, whilst working as a healthcare assistant, I received a leaflet through my letterbox from Unison telling me of a course called 'Return to Learn'. It seemed like a good idea at the time and despite an awful lack of confidence that had developed over the years and weeks of uncertainty about my ability to learn, I went along to the information evening. 

And so my journey began and I was about to discover my brain again. With the help of my WEA tutor, I started out on a new journey of discovery that made me feel able to question. It felt like being a child again and the words why? How? When? were always on my lips. Fortunately, I also learnt that it was all right to question things and nobody looked at me as if I was an idiot. Sometimes, I was even thanked by the members of the group who were not as inquisitive as I was. Later, I changed the word inquisitive to brave. It takes a lot of bravery and courage to admit one's shortcomings and try once again in this strange environment of learning. 

I progressed through the ten-month course and soon it was time to receive my praise and accreditation. I was so pleased with my achievements and with the encouragement of my friends and family I decided to look into the possibility of becoming a voluntary education advisor; I wanted to help others feel like I had and help them achieve their dreams. The advisor course was for two years and taught me things like mentoring skills and different teaching methods. I was happy watching the excitement of the new 'Return to Learn' students as they followed the path I had gone down a few years before, and soon I had supported several tutors and many students, never without the thrill of learning with them and, of course, making the tea! Tea breaks often provide an opportunity for friendships to develop and lighter subjects to be introduced to the conversation.  

I have made many friends during my years with the 'Return to Learn' course and learnt so much. The pleasure I get from the thank you cards and letters I receive and often the news that someone has fulfilled a lifetime's ambition is beyond description. 'Return to Learn' has changed my social life and, with my newfound confidence, I have discovered some hidden talents and now perform with the Bournemouth Shakespeare Players. It seems strange that one leaflet can do all these things.'

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About the author

Kay Field

Digital Marketing Officer

Kay is the Digital Marketing Officer at the WEA.