GCSE English and maths ceremony

Group photo of learners with Service Principal, Anu Chanda

Over one hundred Surrey Adult Learning (SAL) learners who passed their English and maths GCSE exams this last summer were reunited at the Surrey History Centre on the evening of Monday 18 November 2019, to celebrate their success.

The GCSE English and maths results this year were impressive and clearly demonstrated the hard work and dedication of the learners, tutors and curriculum team throughout last year. This continues to be one of the programme's key strengths.

The overall GCSE achievement rates in 2018/19 were 89.6% which is 6% higher than the current national benchmark in our sector. Our high grades were 13.8% higher than other providers in our sector. These excellent results are particularly notable in the context of our learners completing their GCSE course in just 9 months.

All learners who studied for and passed their GCSEs at the SAL Camberley, Guildford, Molesey, Farnham and Woking centres during 2018-19 were invited to the celebration together with friends and family members. Cabinet Member for All Age Learning at Surrey County Council (SCC), Julie Iles, presented the certificates with Liz Mills, SCC Director of Education, Learning and Culture. The speeches were given by SAL's Service Principal Anu Chanda, Curriculum Manager for maths and English Ireni Thalassinos and lead tutor Sue Haigh. SAL Governor and SCC Relationship Manager, Skills for Business and Economic Growth, Paula Neal was also in attendance to celebrate the fantastic achievements of the learners.

Julie, Liz and Paula spent time with individual learners before and after the formal presentation congratulating them on their success and finding out why people had taken the plunge to enrol on a GCSE course with SAL. The reasons were many and varied including being a good role model for the children; "just to prove to myself that I can do it"; "to make me more secure in my work"; to be able to progress at work and to be able to start an apprenticeship or access Higher Education. A common thread from conversations with the learners was the difference having this certificate was making in their lives.

Learner story - Farnham

Learner receiving their certificate from SAL Governor, Julie Iles

Just over a year ago I was given an adult learning booklet. I looked at the GCSE English and maths courses but never dreamt I would be able to pass them as I struggled so much at school and left school barely reading or writing. But I managed to teach myself after leaving school. Now I am a mum to three children and I don't want them to suffer like I did.

So, I made the phone call and booked onto the assessment sessions. A few times I felt like backing out, but with the support of my husband I did attend them. I came away feeling that I wouldn't be offered a place but to my surprise I was offered a place on GCSE English and stepping stones maths. My children thought it was funny that mummy was going to be going back to school. I bought the course book for summer reading. I found it hard at first to read and understand, but after reading it for the third time I got it.

The first lesson was upon me, I was excited, nervous and worried. I thought I wasn't clever enough to be there. After the first spelling test, I realised how bad my spelling was. At first my work was short and full of my safe words, but I stuck at it and learnt so much. Like what a P.E.E. point is and other English terminology that I had never heard about. However at least I could now understand my daughter's English homework! I was starting to read more varied books; I had the support and friendship of the fellow course attendees and tutor. I have made new friends for life, that I would not otherwise have come into contact with. On a few occasions I nearly gave up the course due to struggling and feeling I wasn't making progress. But I stuck at it with the support of everyone in class and at home.

When it got to exam time, everything was a blur and my brain felt like mush. I got through it though and decided I had tried my best and that I had learnt so much. I knew that if I didn't achieve a 4 I could always retake the course if I wanted to.

Results day arrived and the email popped up on my phone. I opened it and read that I had achieved a Level 4. I was so
shocked, I closed the email and reopened it again. I then told my husband who said, "I told you could do it!". My parents, family and friends were delighted for me and I felt rather smug and chuffed as I'd proved I could do it...and I finally had a GCSE worth being on a piece of paper. I'm now looking into courses to become a teaching assistant, as since watching my children start school and struggle, I want to help others reach their dreams and achieve their best. I'm now so glad I didn't give up and have achieved so
much more that I ever dreamed I could.

What will your dream be?

  • Updated: 31 May 2020