Disadvantaged adults’ hard work recognised at Learners’ Awards

Gillian Beckles winner of the SQA Sector
Gillian Beckles winner of the SQA Sector
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Years of hard work, often against seemingly impossible odds, paid off for an exceptional group of Borderers who were recognised at the region’s Adult Learners’ Awards.

Now in their 15th year, the awards honour local people who have taken up the challenge to learn and succeeded, despite numerous disadvantages. Some left school without qualifications; others faced difficulties or disabilities. All, however, shared a sense of purpose - to overcome these obstacles to improve their job prospects, quality of life and sense of personal achievement.

There were ten winners at the awards ceremony at Borders College: overall winner - Lynsey Scott, 32, Galashiels; young learner - Rebecca Macaulay, 16, Kelso; mature learner - Colin Pearson, over 50s, Galashiels; literacies - Jean Pierre Cossigny, 42, Kelso; SQA - Gillian Beckles, 46, Swinton; care - Samantha Millan, 21, Galashiels; learner in the workplace - Darwin Vevers, 18, Hawick; intergenerational - Zoe Hall, 39, Hawick; voluntary - Andrew Hermiston, 48, Hawick; group sector - BIBS (Breastfeeding in the Borders Support).

Veronica Blackwood, chair of the Adult Learners’ Awards, said: “We have been really impressed with both the number and standard of entries for this year, so much so, this has made it extremely difficult to single out individuals for awards.

“We have also been very impressed by praise that learners have heaped on their tutors. All learners and tutors should be extremely proud of their achievements.”

SQA award winner, Gillian Beckles from Swinton worked in the electronics industry but always had ambitions to be a mental health nurse. Eleven years ago she applied for and was accepted onto the Borders College Access to Nursing course but a devastating family bereavement put a stop to her studies and it wasn’t until 2012 that she felt ready to re-apply.

One of the barriers she had to overcome was limited IT knowledge so she took two computer courses for beginners at Borders College, Jedburgh, to improve her skills. During 2012/13 she passed all internal assessments and achieved A passes in the SQA care exam and SQA health and safety project.

Gillian was student rep for her class, received an excellent work placement report, and is now making good progress on the Access to Nursing course aiming to go on to Napier University to study nursing.

“Learning is the best thing I’ve ever done,” said Gillian.

“The learning experience I’ve had at Borders College has changed my life so much. I wanted to do mental health nursing for so long and was never sure if I was going to be clever enough to achieve my goal. I now believe in myself so much more and feel I’m finally on the way to achieving my dream.”

Emma Crosby from Chirnside was also nominated for an award. Emma works as a finance assistant at Abbotsford and started her studies in administration and tourism, at Borders College. She was student of the year in 2012, then went on to take further qualifications - Association of Accounting Technicians - travelling to Edinburgh to complete her training.

During this time Emma was an enthusiastic and successful charity fundraiser and hopes to continue raising money for local causes while working and completing her qualifications.

Mother of three Sharon Halliburton (40), from Coldstream worked on her maths skills with the help of Scottish Borders Council’s Community Learning and Development. Sharon missed out on qualifications at school because of family issues and still faces many challenges.

However, now she has three children and was determined to support her children’s learning as well as improve her own skills, and has now increased her confidence to the point where she is now a confident group participant.

Sarah Maltman from Eyemouth is a single mum with two small children but has still found time to volunteer with the Healthy Living Network, taking the lead in supporting the Bump to Baby group. This has boosted 28 year old Sarah’s confidence and she now shares her knowledge of budgeting, housing issues, and confidence-building with other in the group.

Sarah now works with local Brownie and Guide groups and helps organise Bump to Baby events in Eyemouth, increasing her circle of friends.