Our Festival of Learning winner's Parliament speech

Our Festival of Learning winner's Parliament speech

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07 November 2019

Vicky Segars suffered from severe anxiety preventing her from achieving her goals before she joined a Family Learning course with Kent Adult Education. This started a positive cycle which helped her get the confidence to follow her dreams and reach her potential. Now, Vicky is in the third year of her midwifery degree and will become a fully qualified practitioner in September 2020.

Take a look at her speech below and find out more about the way Kent Adult Education Family Courses affected her and her loved ones:

"After my A levels I fell pregnant with my eldest child, which triggered severe anxiety and depression from events in the past. I quickly gave up on any dreams of ever going to university and focused on being a mother. I went on to have my second child, my dreams of becoming a midwife put on hold and the anxiety raging ever larger in my life. I began to do less with friends and stayed in the safety of my home, it became a dark cloud that hung over everything. I was having daily panic attacks and did counselling to try and overcome the darkness that was now such a big part of my everyday life, I was rarely able to go out alone. There wasn’t one thing that the anxiety didn’t affect, and so naturally the standard of my life, and that of my family, suffered.

Shortly after my eldest child started school personal events meant that I suffered another setback with my mental health, and I went to the family liaison officer at the school,  Sue, she was amazing, she listened to me and encouraged me and helped me get more counselling, and we began talking about where I wanted to go, and what I wanted my life to look like, which was not something I had thought about in a long time.

She told me about the opportunity to do some courses in the school, there was no pressure to start now, but the opportunity was there if I ever wanted to take it in the future. There was a variety of courses, both academic and creative, so there was something for everyone. I had a lot of concerns and worries. Sue helped me to pick away at these worries and I was running out of reasons not to do the course. I was lucky that I was told about these courses and given an opportunity back in to education, Sue was brilliant at recognising and overcoming barriers and giving people the confidence to reach out and search for or accept opportunities. It’s not always about higher education, valuing the efforts and the new attitude towards learning creates a more proactive and positive environment meaning parents are more likely to come back to a place of learning. 

The courses were run at the school, somewhere I knew and was comfortable with, there was a creche, so I didn’t need to worry about childcare. The school has the ethos of valuing learning alongside the children, enabling parents to support their children and encourage learning, placing an increased value on learning, and they are lucky to continue receiving funding for projects like this. Thank you, because the funding for little projects like this really does make a huge difference to peoples lives. You’ve heard it from many of the other speakers today, but certainly from my level, it has made a huge difference.

So, I went to the courses, and by this point I had been out of education for 7 years, so this was a huge thing for me. I enrolled on to Story sacks, something creative, fun, and interactive that I could enjoy with my daughter. The Kent Adult Education staff were friendly and encouraging, Nick, my husband, could come with me. I began to feel less alone, there were other parents there who would talk to me about their stories, and they had similar anxieties or worries or struggles as I had had, it created a support culture, but also a positive attitude towards learning. I started to remember what it was like to enjoy learning, challenging myself and trying new things.  

One course turned into two, turned into three. I started believing in myself again, and in my academic abilities. They were going to run family English, but my grades were high enough that I didn’t meet the criteria. For the first time in a long time I was disappointed at the lost opportunity. By now the teacher had started to get to know me and she said about me wanting to go to university and she offered me help with my personal statement if I wanted to apply for the midwifery course. These were now my friends, they weren’t just my teachers, they had helped me create new bonds with my children, helped me believe in myself again, so with the help of Sue and the Kent Adult Ed teacher, I applied for university.

I was lucky enough to get accepted, now I’m in my third year of my midwifery training. Those small steps back in to learning have evolved into preparing for my dissertation. It has made such a big difference to my life and the lives of my family and friends, I’m now thinking about doing my masters, or when I retire do I want to teach, so I’m being encouraged now at a much higher level, but it’s still those small foundation steps that have let me be here. I can’t express how grateful I am for those programmes and that funding, that people are putting resources in to those ground level projects that are helping people like me, and parents who really need it and who perhaps, wouldn’t see those opportunities otherwise.

On a wider scale, my husband has done a few of the courses, my sister has attended the Teaching Assistant course and is looking to come off benefits and find a job, it’s changing her son’s life too. My children are now more excited to learn and talk about when they go to university, as if its already decided that they will.  So, it really is affecting several generations, not just mine, it filters down. They are proud of my persistence and courage.

My mental health still affects me, but I look at how far I’ve come, and how much has changed. I will qualify in September 2020 and be able to work as a midwife. I have realised it’s never too late, with the right support and the courage to go outside of my comfort zone. If I can do it then anyone can, it’s so important that those opportunities are there for people to just take one step at a time, then they really can continue to learn for the rest of their lives."

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