How can I help people to fly?

14 March 2014

On Wednesday 5th March at Buckingham Palace, in the presence of our Royal Patron, HRH The Princess Royal, NIACE introduced the new Adult Learner Ambassadors to a group of sector and business leaders. One of those Ambassadors, Amanda Scales, who went from a belly dancing class, to an Access course, to university and is now a teacher, made the following speech…

Your Royal Highness, Ladies and Gentlemen

First of all I would like to say how delighted I am to be here and have the opportunity to share my thoughts on the importance of adult learning.

My own learning journey began with no other aim or desire in mind than to steal away from a very stressful life and snatch a few precious hours, in which I could be myself and enjoy learning for the sheer pleasure of learning for learning’s sake.

In those stolen few hours, I was able to recharge my batteries, feel like Amanda the person once again and then return to my somewhat stressed circumstances with a little bit of hope that I had not lost myself for ever.

8 years later and I am still on, what I know now to be, a life- long learning journey. Throughout those years, there were occasions when I felt inadequate, shed tears and sometimes collapsed in complete and utter exhaustion. Those moments are all what I know now to be an important part of my journey. The journey which has built my confidence, given me self- esteem and untold satisfaction and pleasure.

Now, I am a somewhat seasoned traveller on this  journey of life- long learning, I realise that what began as desperate stolen moments for self- survival  had changed along the way.

I realised I loved learning with a passion, I loved my subject.

I became ravenous for knowledge, for new experiences and stimulation and optimistically created a self which said yes to as much learning as I could fit in to my life.

Achieving my goals was all-consuming, I was literally swept along with learning and being at Sussex University taking part in the odd sit-in and Stop the Cuts Demonstration.

I couldn’t quite believe it, me Amanda protesting the cheek of it!-

I loved every second of it!

When in 2012 I was awarded Outstanding Learner for the South East by NIACE I was overjoyed for my journey had been an intense private and personal struggle that I thought only I really was aware of.

This moment became a major changing point in my life, for one of the many wonderful things about being a NIACE winner is that you begin to look at your learning journey through new eyes,

I was proud of myself and it was ok to say it, as the good people here at NIACE had said it first.

For the first time I reflected on my path and began to truly appreciate what it had given me.

I had found the real me. I wasn’t just a mum, a single parent struggling bringing up my 4 children in poverty.

I was a success, I was achieving my learning goals and it was fantastic and NIACE believed in me.

In fact it was so fantastic, I wanted everybody else all to be able to experience it as well; this is when I knew I wanted to be a teacher.

To enable, motivate and inspire others to take up their own learning journeys.

A year later I am now a qualified teacher, but I feel more than that,

In my heart and mind, I now feel like a Warrior – a Warrior for equality and access to opportunity for all.

I am passionately committed to breaking down barriers to learning.

The last year especially has been very revealing and opened my eyes to the lack of opportunity available to a large percentage of the community in which I daily exist.

People of all ages, who go through life at a disadvantage, people who dream of a better future but do not know how to begin the journey. People who struggle with poor basic literacy and communication skills who are knocked back frequently by their failure to fill in forms correctly, ask the right questions and even sometimes understand the answers. This physically stops them achieving success and mentally crushes their self-confidence and self-esteem.

Equality in access to opportunity can only be gained by enabling all of society, who so wish it, to gain an education.

Education liberates. It gives a voice to the silent. It gives confidence to those lacking. It raises self- esteem. It promotes the ability to question and go forward in life. It lifts you out of ignorance and lets you fly.

Without access to adult education there is no real equality within our society.

So I ask when you leave here, we make our number one priority the most precious gift that our country can give to its people. The gift of education, be it vocational, informal or formal. Because each and every course or programme has a person waiting for an opportunity to access it, someone, who desperately want to change their life, become enabled and is just seeking motivation, encouragement and accessibility. I want us to leave thinking ‘how can I help people to fly?’



sue robinson

March 14th, 2014 at 5:38 pm

What an amazing speech and what a journey, well done Amanda

Ann Walker

March 15th, 2014 at 10:51 am

As well as her other achievements, Amanda has great presence as a speaker and was brimming with conviction and enthusiasm for adult learning when she made this powerful speech.

NIACE(and WEA)Adult Learning Ambassadors are the some of the very best advocates for showing that it’s never too late to learn,that adult learning can transform lives and that learning journeys can take some very individual paths to success.

Congratulations to Amanda on all her achievements and contributions so far.

Lou Mycroft

March 17th, 2014 at 9:03 am

Wow Amanda, you truly are a Warrior and a real inspiration. I am so jealous of Ann, Sue and everyone who got to hear you speak [:-)]

You give hope to all of us working in adult and community education that we are doing something right and I am more delighted than I can say, that you’re now a teacher too!

Many congratulations to you, Amanda.

Amanda Pavon-Lopez

March 17th, 2014 at 1:03 pm

Amanda was fantastic as the Outstanding Learner in the South-East in 2012, and she is still going from strength to strength. She reminds us all of why we work in adult learning!
A great inspiration to all – potential new learners, those participating at the moment, and everyone who works in the field.
Go Amanda!