Samantha, from Ballyrashane, has three girls aged 5, 8 and 9 years and Nicola, from Harper’s Hill, has a son and daughter aged 9 and 7 years. They agree that the community education courses have been ideal for them.
The two first met when they were dropping their eldest children off at playschool some years ago and have since become firm friends.
Samantha said: "Although I'd already passed maths at school, I felt I could do with a bit of a refresher course as I didn't think I’d be confident enough to help the children with their homework when they got older. Nicola felt the same so we decided to do the maths course together for a bit of moral support."
Nicola said that although they were a bit apprehensive at first, once the class started, they settled down to work straight away and never looked back.
"The classes were really enjoyable and the teachers were very supportive and encouraging. Attending class in the community centre was not as intimidating as going to college or school and more informal so it was ideal for people like us who hadn't been in a classroom for years."
She added: "Using computers is so much part of everyday life now, there is always something new to learn. In fact, we enjoyed the computing class so much that we tried to do it again! When we were chased, we decided to sign up for the English class. I just can't get enough of it”.
Northern Regional College works with community and voluntary organisations across four different Council areas to offer a wide range of courses for adults in a community setting. These include courses that can lead to a qualification in subjects like Maths, Computing, English, First Aid, Sports Leadership, British Sign language as well as leisure courses, such as arts and crafts, dressmaking, jewellery making, baking, and digital photography.
Doris Peden, Community Education Co-ordinator at Northern Regional College, explained that all community education courses are tailored to meet local demand from community groups/organisations.
“Over the past number of years, the College has developed a strong working relationship with different groups/organisations who are best placed to know what is needed in their own neighbourhood. They identify what people living in there want and then we do our best to deliver the courses literally on their doorstep. Depending on demand, the courses can be delivered at any time of the year and at a time and place that best suits the participants. Our retention rate is very good because like Samantha and Nicola, once people get a taste for doing the classes, they just keep coming back for more.”
She continued: “Studying in a community venue like Millburn Community Centre is ideal for anyone who wants to brush up on essential skills like Maths, English and Computing or who may have missed out on qualifications first time round and now need a qualification to help their career prospects. It is also a good chance for people to try something different and develop new leisure skills. All the essential skills classes are free to attend.”
Millburn Community Centre Co-ordinator, Billy Ellis is in total agreement. “Essential skills classes are real confidence builders and have helped open doors for so many people who, for one reason or another, might not have done too well at school or who just want to brush up on some topics.
“We have a fantastic working relationship with Northern Regional College. Community education courses have been a great stepping stone for a lot of people, helping to boost their self-esteem and improve career prospects. People enjoy the courses and want to go on to further study, some have even progressed to university as a result.”