NIACE Learner Ambassador’s drive to commemorate WWI in Brighton

5 August 2014

Amanda Scales won our Outstanding Adult Learner of the Year in the South-East in 2012. As with all of our national award winners, she was remarkable and it was obvious from the first time I met her that here was a woman with a mission, with an iron will and with determination to get as much as she could out of the rest of her life.

After a difficult start, hating school, she got the bug for learning at a belly dancing class. As with so many adults, her learning has blossomed incredibly from such humble beginnings. And there has been no stopping her. She did an Access Course, followed by a degree in Contemporary History, and works with adults engaging them in local history in Brighton.

Last year she had an idea…to link her love of her home city of Brighton, with her love of history and the centenary of the start of World War I. She came up with the idea of a Brighton bus, decorated with images of the war. The bus company didn’t respond to her emails. The meeting to discuss the commemoration of the war didn’t take any notice of her. She dropped me a despondent email asking ‘what should I do?’

As she keeps reminding me, my ‘go for it’ was the spur she needed and she did! Using her position as a NIACE Learner Ambassador, she went back to a commemoration meeting, stood up and addressed it and they listened. And now, 12 months later, the bus has been launched at a ceremony in Regency Square Brighton, followed by lunch at The Lord Mayor’s parlour.

Interestingly, every image, from the 7,000 she trawled through, has been chosen for how it can be used as a learning resource for both adults and children. This is a proper teacher!

This amazing woman charmed the head of the bus company, got her local MP on side by sheer force of her personality and at every juncture talked about how getting involved in learning and winning the Adult Learners’ Week Award have been the turning points in her life. They gave her not only knowledge but tenacity; the sense that she was as good as everyone else; and an understanding of how knowledge is passed on.

Not all Adult Learners’ Week award winners have the sense of mission that Amanda has, but all of them are deeply proud of their achievements and clear about the benefits of adult learning to their lives. Not all those engaged in adult learning will get a degree and find their vocation in working with adults. But all of them will have that deep seated curiosity about the world unlocked; all of them will feel brain cells creaking and want more of it; all of them will feel the slow unlocking of confidence which is the big leap that will take them forward.