A COLEG CAMBRIA tutor who won an award for supporting victims of childhood abuse and domestic violence has dedicated it to her students.
Pam Mclean runs an essential skills course with a charity, helping women from all across North Wales to overcome barriers through learning, and says she’s constantly inspired by their stories of survival.
The Inspire! Tutor Awards celebrate the achievements of exceptional tutors and mentors in Wales who have shown outstanding passion and commitment to encourage, support and teach other adult learners to pursue their goals and transform their lives, whether it’s in their community or the workplace.
Run by Learning and Work Institute, with support from the Welsh Government, they reward outstanding individuals whose commitment, knowledge and communication skills have given adult learners the tools to transform their lives.
Pam, an Adult Basic Education Tutor with Coleg Cambria Wrexham, teamed up with Stepping Stones North Wales more than a year ago to run weekly Essential Skills classes for women, as part of its ‘survivor’ support group, Next Steps.
The charity provides therapeutic services to adults across North Wales who have been the victims of childhood sexual abuse.
Pam, 63, said: “I knew from talking to learners how their own barriers to education had affected their lives in different ways. Many had poor attendance at school or had left school early due to the trauma of their abuse and they said having poor Maths, English and IT skills presented real barriers in their lives.”
Coleg Cambria’s maths and English courses support learners to improve their skills and to work towards achieving the Essential Skills qualifications and sessions.
Pam said: “Many have been through tremendously difficult experiences and they may not speak to me for the first few weeks. But they slowly form friendships as they learn. It takes time and we have to go at the pace of the learner.”
Every week, up to 14 women attend the classes, which have been opened to partner organisations to reach more victims of childhood abuse and domestic violence.
“The inability to read sufficiently to be able to carry out everyday tasks, either in work or in their daily home lives, was a barrier some felt they would never be able to overcome,” said Pam, who often uses tasks rooted in her students’ interests, from literature to food.
“Many lack in confidence and don’t feel that they achieve anything day-to-day. I tell them that by 9am, they’ve probably solved several Maths problems, for example, just by getting their children to school, and they build on that and go on to do wonderful things.”
Since the first Maths lessons, Stepping Stones’ students have progressed to other courses, with every learner enrolling again this term to continue their education.
“Students say they’re now able to help their children or grandchildren with homework, some have been in controlling relationships and want help learning to budget and make informed decisions in their life.”
Inspire! Adult Tutor nominations were invited for ‘outstanding individuals’ who give ‘over and above’ what is expected of them, from areas including higher education, further education, the workplace, community education and schools.
Pam was a PA to a college vice principal then decided to change her career path and entered teaching later on in life, gaining her PGCE at the age of 48. She has worked at Coleg Cambria for 16 years.
“I chose adult education as I felt I could make a difference to how people perceived education,” she said.
“Learning is incredibly powerful, freeing, and it changes lives. I believe that adult education should be a friendly, welcoming, safe environment and it should be available within the community. This award is testament to the team and to the women who’ve overcome so many barriers to unleash the power of their own potential.”
Kirsty Williams, Minister for Education, said: “Good mentors are important at all stages of our lives. The role of an adult tutor comes with additional challenges in helping someone returning to education achieve their goals.
“The Inspire! Tutor Awards are a great way to thank people like Pam whose skills, time and commitment continue to support so many journeys in learning, often with life-changing results.”
David Hagendyk, Director for Wales at Learning and Work Institute, added: “‘Behind every successful adult learner are the tutors, lecturers and support staff who work every day to help individuals unlock their potential and fulfil their ambitions.”
Coleg Cambria Chief Executive David Jones paid tribute to Pam for her tireless work in the field of adult education.
He said: “Pam’s commitment to supporting people who have not had the opportunity to pursue a career or education earlier in their lives is incredible.
“We are all proud of her achievements and delighted to see her receive much-deserved recognition on the national stage.”