Karen tests the public

SHOPPERS in Ipswich had the chance to try out a new national qualification today.Gold medal winning swimmer Karen Pickering visited the Buttermarket shopping centre to help promote a new learning scheme called the National Test.

SHOPPERS in Ipswich had the chance to try out a new national qualification today.

Gold medal winning swimmer Karen Pickering visited the Buttermarket shopping centre to help promote a new learning scheme called the National Test.

Karen joined representatives from the Learning and Skills Council to offer people the chance to try some of the questions from the test, which will offer a qualification equivalent to a GCSE in English or Maths.

The Learning and Skills Council is a government agency set up to improve knowledge and skills of young people and adults and the National Test is free and available to anyone aged over 16.

Volunteers at the centre were asked a question by Karen and then had to choose from four possible answers.

Karen managed to complete both her GCSEs and A-levels while training for the Commonwealth Games with the national swimming squad.

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"I was fortunate that I was able to do my exams but I know a lot of team members who didn't take them or didn't do well because they were focused on the sport. But you can get to the point where you think 'what do I do now?'"

Karen said she was supporting the National Test because it was a scheme that would help boost the confidence of people who were too nervous to try other qualifications.

"People have all sorts of reasons not to have done their exams. It is good to have this that is not daunting. For a lot of people it will be a good confidence boost to get moving towards the next thing.

"Taking the first step is the hardest thing and this really struck me as a good idea."

Karen Pickering MBE has won more medals than any other British female swimmer, including eight World Championships, 14 European Championship medals, 38 National Championship medals and 13 Commonwealth Games medals, including four gold.

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