Adult Learner is Highly Commended in National Award

Published: 14th June 2018

Published by City College Southampton

We are delighted to announce that adult basic skills student, Alan Shaw, has been ‘Highly Commended’ for the national Festival of Learning’s ‘Return to Learning Award 2018’.

This award celebrates individuals across the UK that have returned to learning as an adult, and through this learning have transformed their life. You can read about the Festival of Learning awards here.

Alan Shaw, 54, left school with no qualifications and for many years was “too embarrassed” to admit his lack of English and maths skills to others. Instead, he avoided situations requiring communication, reading, IT or maths, and relied heavily on his family to get by.

He explained: “In the ‘80s and ‘90s I was fortunate enough to get work without any qualifications but this changed when I was made redundant several years ago and employers began to ask for English and maths qualifications. I didn't even have the skills to turn a computer on, write a letter or complete a job application. It was embarrassing!

“Going back to college at the age of 50 to learn English, maths and IT has totally changed my life in a way I could never believe. Before I started every day was a challenge. I had zero confidence and avoided anything that meant reading, counting or writing.”

Over the last four years Alan has completed a variety of English, maths and IT courses and is looking to undertake a retail skills course to assist him getting back into work.

Alan’s journey has also inspired his father to attend IT classes and his friend to improve their English and maths.

Alan continued: “After a lifetime of embarrassment, I have a new lease of life. I love that I can now pick up a paper and read it with confidence. My family is so proud.”

Oonagh Potter, English tutor at City College, said: “We are really proud of Alan’s achievements. His outlook on life has completely changed and he has inspired others to follow in his footsteps.”

Stephen Evans, Chief Executive at Learning and Work Institute, said: “An estimated nine million adults in the UK have low literacy and numeracy skills, reducing their opportunities to thrive at work and in wider life. Alan’s story demonstrates the importance of access to basic skills courses, whatever a person’s age and circumstances, in helping them to achieve their full potential in life and work, and he is inspiring others to follow in his footsteps.”

For further information on our adult learning courses, visit or come along to our Open Day this Saturday 16th June, 9:30am – 1pm.