making up for lost schooldays

OUR schooldays are supposed to be the happiest of our lives, but it is not always the case. Today a new adult education scheme in Ipswich is helping some people make up for what they missed.

OUR schooldays are supposed to be the happiest of our lives, but it is not always the case. Today a new adult education scheme in Ipswich is helping some people make up for what they missed. KAREN GODDARD reports.

FOR many adults, looking back on their education is a painful experience marred by memories of bullying or the embarrassment of academic failure.

Negative associations can often stop those who want to brush-up on their literacy or numeracy skills from ever wanting to step through the school gates again.

But now Ipswich Town Football Club (ITFC) has come up with a brand new adult education programme that takes the stress out of studying.

Rather than returning to the intimidating atmosphere of a school or college, adult learners are being given the chance to study in the less formal surroundings of the football stadium. The content of these new literacy and numeracy courses have also been given a footballing flavour with students being asked to write their own match day reports, conduct mock interviews, analyse attendance figures and take measurements of the football pitch.

The scheme, Sport 4 Choice, was launched in January and is financed by the Learning and Skills Council with money from the EU European Social Fund.

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Project administrator Kerry Hawes said the idea is now expanding the idea across the county: “This is a brand new project for Suffolk. We have never had funding for anything like this before. So, that's really exciting”.

“Having started in Ipswich we are now setting up sports-themed courses at Ipswich Town's Learning Zone at the National Stud in Newmarket and at our Ripple Effect Centre at Oulton Broad near Lowestoft.

“It's all about getting people through the door - by offering them something different we are encouraging them to take the first step.”

The Sport 4 Choice education programme is free to anyone over the age of 16, not in full-time education and without a recognised qualification in either Maths or English. Over a ten-week period, an adult education officer provides basic literacy and numeracy tuition which could lead to a nationally recognised qualification.

According to ITFC's director of learning Matthew Try, one of Sport 4 Choice's big selling points is the fact that session times are flexible and tailored to the needs of individual students.

He said: “One of the big problems with adult education courses is they tend to take place at a specific time every week, often in the evenings. That's not always good for shift workers.”

“We offer courses in the mornings, afternoons and evenings so there's something to suit everybody. We are very flexible and would encourage people to give us a call and discuss what time is best for them”.

The football club can also help students overcome problems with transport or childcare.

Matthew said: “Transport costs or lack of childcare can be a barrier to learning for some people, we are able to offer help in those situations.”

Ten adults have already taken part in the new scheme and Matthew Try is convinced that the unique setting has been a big attraction to students.

“Having worked with school groups for many years we found that the teachers were often just as keen as the kids to see behind the scenes. So, we thought why not give adult learners the same exciting learning experience.”

“Sport 4 Choice is all about offering adults the opportunity to freshen-up their basic literacy and numeracy skills”, said Matthew.

“Some people didn't have a particularly good time at school so returning to a classroom situation can be a big issue. For them, the football ground provides a less threatening environment. By coming along they get a real sense of everything that goes on in the stadium.”

“We have younger men who wouldn't consider going back to school to do an adult literacy course, but they come to us because they are attracted by the football theme”.

The courses are also helpful to those for whom English is a second language.

“We have had a group of Slovakian students who have really got a lot out of the course. However, all students must have a reasonable grasp of the English language to take part.”

The fun, football-focussed learning sessions are proving popular with older learners too.


For more information about Ipswich Town Football Club's free adult education courses contact: 01473 400589.

Peter, 51, has been attending Sport 4 Choice numeracy lessons since January and recently took an exam.

He was really impressed with the course, and has now become an ambassador for the scheme promoting Sport 4 Choice on local radio and amongst his work colleagues at Ipswich Buses.

He said: “I come along to the football ground one evening a week from 6.30 to 9pm. I had learnt about decimal points, fractions and algebra at school but I found I'd forgotten a lot of it. If you don't use the skills over the years they just disappear.”

Thanks to the Sport 4 Choice scheme, Peter has now gained a City and Guilds Qualification which is equivalent to an NVQ Level 1.

“Once I started the course I got more and more involved. Taking the numeracy exam was very daunting - there were certainly some butterflies. But I'm pleased with what I've achieved. Now, hopefully I'll be able to sit down with my grandchildren and help them with their homework.”

ITFC's adult education tutor Annie Brown, said that Peter's experience is just one of many success stories.

She said: “One student in his mid-forties had been through some horrendous experiences during his school-life. He came along not being able to read or even to write his own name but has gone away with some writing skills and is feeling much more confident and positive. He is now doing another course where he can build on what he has learnt.”

For Peter, confidence-building is an important part of the Sport 4 Choice scheme: “When you get to my age it's difficult to admit that you can't do certain things.

“These courses are all about breaking down barriers and removing that feeling of embarrassment and awkwardness. More than anything Sport 4 Choice a brilliant way of building self-esteem”.