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Adult learning case studies

​Hand Embroidery

I joined the course five years ago after I retired and was slightly alarmed to find that learning wasn't just a one-way thing.  We learn new stitches and methods, and innovative ways of incorporating them into items which we are challenged to design and make ourselves.  This challenge releases our latent creativity and results in an amazing variety of beautiful creations made by members of the course.

It is a very friendly group, and during a bleak period of my life two or three years ago I found the atmosphere extremely therapeutic and very helpful in restoring my confidence and ability to continue. Now sadly I am having to move away.  However, I'm taking on a new challenge - I'm going to put what I've learnt to good use by starting my own business selling my work on line.  Wish me success!

Pam Woolrych


Introduction to BSL

'The course is very nice and each week I want to learn more! Our tutor Jackie is very warm and friendly person. I hope I could learn to sign quicker but I know that I need loads of practice to be able to do this. The course itself is wonderful!'

Agnieszka Domaradzka


English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL)

Mariam was an ESOL student at STC Merton from 2015 – 2017.  During this period, she successfully completed Entry 2 and Entry 3 and, in addition, her ESOL studies contributed to great personal development as well as significantly improving her spoken and written English.

This was demonstrated by Mariam becoming ESOL Ambassador for the Library where she also volunteered three times a week. She was extremely enthusiastic about this role as she is a keen reader and always has a book on the go.  

She was a joint Class Representative in Entry 2 and took on the unofficial role of Classroom Assistant in all her classes!  In addition to her college activities, Mariam also worked in Poundland once a week which was a good opportunity to practise her spoken English.

She is now hoping to start a vocational course, relating to working in a library, in September at a college near her new home in Luton.



I enrolled on the Childcare Level 1 course in September 2016.  I completed the qualification in December 2016 also gaining a Level 1 Workskills qualification. I managed all this whilst also juggling my family commitments with four children and doing some night shifts in a residential care home.

Completing the Level 1 qualifications gave me the motivation to continue with my studies and to train further to work in childcare. I became more confident and managed to complete the Level 2 Certificate in Childcare in July 2017 after an intensive six months' course for which I also had a weekly work placement in a nursery.  I am very happy because I achieved all this despite having difficulties with writing and processing information.

On completion of my Level 2 studies, I realised that I needed to improve my IT skills in order to write more challenging assignments as expected on Level 3 courses. In September 2017, I enrolled on an IT course that I thoroughly enjoyed and which allowed me to become fully competent in word processing.

With strengthened confidence and a strong ambition to pursue my career in childcare, I will be completing the Level 3 Childcare in July 2018.  I have worked very hard in my studies and have been on a 2-day work placement since September 2017.

I am very grateful for having had the chance to join the courses and ultimately want to open up my own nursery setting once I have gained more experience in the field.

Mavis Odame-Darkwa



Keeping a healthy work/life balance is so important.  I enjoy challenging the right side of my brain through the creativity in my pottery class.

I've been keen to develop my throwing skills on the potter's wheel which is achieved through repeat practice, making gradual improvements in the pieces I make.   I've been experimenting with burnished vessels and the impact of different organic materials in a saggar firing.

You can progress at your own pace during the course, with plenty of encouragement to think outside of the box to explore ceramic forms and surfaces in a different way.  There is friendly peer support within the group where we share our technical skills and knowledge, and discuss contemporary and historical ceramics.  Our discussions in class serve as a springboard for new ideas to research and to incorporate into future work, as well as helping to broaden my knowledge of ceramics.  The time in class goes so quickly and before I know it, it's already time to clean up!

Zara Breese


Stained and Fused glass courses

I never thought of myself as artistic in any way. I was not (and am not) any good at drawing, my degree was in computer science and my career had little creative in it. On a whim, about ten years ago I did a one term course in stained glass, run in Wandsworth by Maria Fagan, attracted more by the structural aspects of the craft rather than the idea that I would be making works of art. I enjoyed the course but did not continue with it. Then a couple of years ago, big changes in personal life and a growing dissatisfaction with my work life left me looking for something that would offer me more fulfilment. I returned to stained glass, signing up to a course of evening classes (by chance also run by my original teacher, Maria Fagan). I loved the course, remembering swiftly the skills and techniques I had learnt all those years before. I found that my interest was in larger projects, specifically windows, made using a variety of techniques – leaded work, mosaic and fusion. Most surprisingly of all, I found that I had no trouble in the creative process; my difficulty was in trying to rein in the plethora of ideas that came to me for new works.

The course provided the perfect environment for me to learn – left on my own to work at my own pace but with expert advice available freely when I needed it. The discipline of having to turn up every week and show progress made sure that I worked on my projects during the week and the interest of my fellow students in my work and my interest in theirs keeps me fresh and stimulated, as well as building supportive friendships.

Over the last year or so of courses I have started to have ambitions towards building a business around my glass making. Through the course environment and Maria’s support, I have entered local arts competitions and exhibitions and I can see a future where I will be able to support myself through doing something I love. I have discovered (with a shock) that I am artistic and creative and the fulfilment that I get through this unexpected personal development will, I am sure, stay with me for the rest of my life.


Health and Social Care

I enrolled on a Health and Social Care Level 1 course at Merton Adult Education in November 2017 and completed it March 2018.  While attending this course, I also did a CACHE Level 2 in Introducing Caring for Children and Young People via distance learning online all while being a mother to a toddler and a teenager.

I also suffer from anxiety and occasionally have panic attacks. It took me a while to pluck up the courage to enrol but I was pleased to find that the class I was attending was a small group and since completing the course, I have gained a lot of confidence and made new friends.

Completing the Level 1 qualification gave me a lot of confidence in my abilities and am now certain that I want to work in this field. On the course, we explored many different job roles in care and what qualifications are required for different roles.

I then enrolled on a Level 2 course 'Preparing to work in Health and Social Care, which I started in April 2018.  When I complete my Level 2, I aim to have decided which profession I'd like to pursue, although I'm already leaning towards becoming a health care assistant.

I'm extremely grateful to have been given a chance to study and gain qualifications this late in life. With big thanks to my tutor in particular.

Tammy Rowles



Having recently retired, I was looking for something different to do where I could also learn new skills in a completely different field to my career in the NHS. I had done an upholstery course back in the early eighties when I had just bought a house and could not afford the furniture! I had really enjoyed learning traditional methods that turned an unloved and ugly piece into something admired by friends and family. It was remembering the enjoyment and satisfaction that had given me that made me enrol in the upholstery day class run by Alex Watson at Merton College. My previous teacher was a hard act to follow but I soon found out that Alex had all the expertise and know-how but was also able to give projects a modern twist. The other class members carried out a variety of projects so it was fun to learn from their work as well as mine and it was a friendly and supportive environment. Projects within the class covered a range from fairly simple footstools to more complex chairs with buttoning and other specific skills. Alex is also able to help with ideas for upcycling the frames to match fabrics and styles. Having completed three small projects I am now working on a Victorian rocking chair and a 1920s style armchair and can't wait to see how they turn out.

I really look forward to Wednesdays and find myself constantly on the lookout for the next project. Each piece has reminded me of skills I had forgotten and taught me some new ones too. I have never considered myself to be artistic so it has been immensely satisfying to find an outlet for my more creative side.

Yvonne Connolly


I started clothes making classes at Merton Adult Education about 5 years ago which came about as a consequence of my adult daughter making a passing comment one evening that I was always working hard and really needed to make time for myself to pursue a hobby in order to help me relax and be creative.  I had always enjoyed clothes making at school and continued with this hobby as a young adult, but as I grew older found it more difficult to find the time to be creative and make time to sew.

Attending the classes has allowed me to learn new techniques in my sewing and also develop more confidence in my sewing techniques. I have successfully made at least five dresses and three formal jackets with my very experienced teacher who has a wealth of knowledge and patience. I have learnt to use an overlocking machine and gained the confidence to make and apply lining material to my dresses and jackets, together with learning some couture techniques.

I have looked forward to socialising with other women on a regular basis who also love to sew.

GCSE Maths and English

Noureddine Bedaoui enrolled on a Maths GCSE course in September 2016. He completed the qualification in June 2017 gaining grade B. He achieved this whilst keeping a full time job as a delivery driver and raising his young family.

Noureddine's goal is to become a maths teacher in a secondary school and to complete PGCE teacher training at university in order to achieve his goal.  Because Noureddine was educated abroad, he also needed to gain a GCSE English qualification as part of his university application.

Noureddine is currently enrolled on an English GCSE course and through hard work and determination is on track to achieve a good grade, which will allow him to realise his ambition of training as a teacher.

During the two academic years in which Noureddine has been a student at Merton College, he has also volunteered every Saturday in a community school teaching Arabic to teenagers preparing for GCSE, thus gaining useful and valuable teaching experience.

Because of his excellent attendance and achievement and his hard work and dedication, Noureddine was nominated by the college and was awarded the COSLP Best Learner Award at the House of Lords in June 2018.