Adult education vision still producing great results

Three women wearing aprons preparing food to cook

Lessons with Tina the Samosa Lady - Credit: Contributed

A local initiative to help adults in Ottery that launched thirteen years ago, initially offering foreign languages, continues to go from strength to strength.

Since then many businesses in Ottery, such as the Samosa Lady and the Sewing Room among others, have followed the example and are conducting classes or training sessions as part of the services provided by either their businesses or as individuals.

A small team of dedicated teachers started work with Ottery Town Council delivering day and evening classes since 2007, initially at the Council premises in Silver Street, later on at the meeting room of the new Council offices and finally at the Ottery Station, as part of the Active Life & Active Mind program also initiated by Josefina Gori as a Councillor project in 2017. Using the latest interactive technology provided at the council offices and at the Station, expert tutors continued to offer day and evening classes in Spanish and French, supporting adult learners through their examinations. Within a year the council added computer-training classes to their list of classes, using money made available by East Devon District Council.

During the pandemic the language initiative adapted, as many did, to the technology offered by the internet and continued to help educate more than 150 students a week. They have attended regular sessions and many more joined the Free Internet course offered to those isolated. Tutors claim that learning to speak a foreign language is cheaper in Ottery than anywhere else in the South West.

Between 2003 and 2007, adult education across the whole of the country went through one of the most radical changes ever.

Prospective students refused to pay the highly increased fees imposed by the Government and many flourishing education centres closed, forcing well trained and dedicated tutors to look for alternatives to keep offering the service. One of the towns most affected was Ottery. The area had a flourishing adult education program offered through Sidmouth College and using available premises in town such as The King’s School. All of that vanished in 2007 and the need for finding a solution became evident

In an effort to provide classes in the town, Glyn Dobson Ottery Mayor at that time, approached Josefina Gori, a Spanish Tutor, offering to use the council offices for lessons, and the venture took off immediately, shortly followed by other classes such as French, Computer Technology, Internet use, etc.

When it comes to the number of students attending the classes since the program started, the figures go into the thousands. Things have changed with the outcome of the pandemic but the commitment made by the initiators of the program is still there. After 13 years they can say they are helping adults and supporting the community as others, such as Tina and Juliet who are also offering classes as part of their services.

The Action Group believes that there is a tremendous potential for combining the resources available in town with the opportunities for individuals to better themselves and day by day we see more and more organisations, businesses and individuals offering those opportunities. It was an idea that was born out of the vision of a group of individuals simply wanting to help a community and thanks to the enthusiasm of many of Ottery’s residents, organisations and traders, it is still producing great results.

Should you wish to join the program get in touch with Josefina Gori at osmfriendsofphyllisbaxter@gmail.com

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