Research and Practice in Adult Literacy – a friendly group


D, St Andrew’s Birmingham

My Adult Learner Journey

My name is D and I am currently in a secure care service. From childhood, for various reasons I missed out on a stable education and so as an adult I have a lot to catch up on. I chose to study whilst in secure healthcare because I was offered the opportunity to study one to one. I took this up immediately as I have always struggled in groups.

As a child I could not concentrate but could not always get the support. I was distracted. I moved house and children’s homes many times, which was unsettling and I could therefore never concentrate as I felt lost and confused. As an adult I am willing to learn and try very hard to stay focused but I still find groups difficult for many reasons.

My own achievements in very small steps inspired me to keep going. I used to see people reading the daily paper or playing scrabble on the ward. I would discuss this with my teacher and was encouraged to keep trying and build up my belief in myself. I practise reading aloud in my one to one sessions and I have learnt how to sound out unknown words by breaking them down into chunks. I have also learnt how to use clues on the page, such as headings, diagrams, labels so I can guess what the words may be from these clues.

I am very proud to say that through the Open College Network I have gained certificates in English. I worked hard and built up a portfolio of my work, which was checked by an assessor. I have so far gained: entry level 2, grammar and punctuation, reading and writing.

I am working on further units at the same level and also one at entry level 3. The options that I currently have for learning are education sessions, access to the library on-site, IT, and horticulture. The limits are mainly that I can only have one to one education one hour per week but if I were in school or college I would have whole days.

I overcame my difficulties as I matured as an adult and saw that I really wanted to learn. Encouraged by others and by my own self-motivation I feel more positive. I like choosing what I want to study as I like certain things such as looking at world maps and talking about countries, cooking, looking at recipes and studying the words in the recipes. More recently I have found out that I really enjoy working at the allotment. It is very good for me and in my education sessions I read and write about it for my portfolio work.

My message to others who wish they had more confidence as adult learners is that if I can do it you can do it. By the way, I am now the one in the lounge playing scrabble on the ward thanks to people believing in me and most importantly thanks to believing in myself. Thanks for reading this.

St Andrew’s Birmingham

St Andrew’s Birmingham is a regional site of St Andrew’s, an independent national teaching hospital pioneering in mental health. St Andrew’s is a university learning and research centre partnered with Kings College London. It is the UK’s leading charity providing specialist NHS care.

The Birmingham site consists of eight units covering three care pathways: men’s mental health, women’s mental health and ASD (men’s). A small team offers education as part of the therapeutic programme. Many of our learners have one to one education sessions or very small groups (two to three), where we promote self–esteem by encouraging patients’ motivation to take part in education sessions. We embed literacy, numeracy, and IT skills through personalised learning programmes. We work with a range of other disciplines, including occupational therapy and psychology to encourage engagement in as many different ways as possible. Our patients have complex mental health needs and issues which impact on concentration and motivation but they gain confidence over time to engage in sessions. We shared three learners’ stories with you here.


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