Reluctant pupil goes back to school as a teacher

WHEN Pat Fenwick was a youngster he had to be dragged kicking and screaming into the classroom of his local primary school.

Now he walks into the same building with a smile on his face as a teacher of English as a foreign language after having his life transformed by the decision to go back into education.

He is one of the first generation of graduates from an online college in Yorkshire which is training students who never set foot in a classroom.

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Mr Fenwick, 50, has spent the past 25 years running his own painting and decorating business.

However in recent years he has also been able to earn GCSEs in maths and English and a foundation degree after taking advantage of Sheffield College’s online courses.

The Online College allow students to complete GCSEs, A-levels and foundation degrees without setting foot outside their home.

It aims to provide access to education for people who have work or family commitments which would prevent them coming into the college full time.

Lessons and reading material are all delivered over the internet meaning pupils only have to come into college for some exams.

The online college was started in 2000 with an English GCSE course

This month it celebrated its first graduates with students who have completed its e-communications foundation degree – a course that is delivered part-time over three years.

Last month it also launched a second foundation degree in e-business.

Both courses give students the option of going on to study at Sheffield Hallam University in person afterwards in order to earn a full degree. Mr Fenwick was among the college’s first ever cohorts of e-communications graduates. Since going back to college he has also trained and volunteered his time as an ESOL (English for speakers of other languages) teacher.

This has taken him back to his childhood as he now teaches in the same building where he was once a reluctant pupil.

The former Sharrow Lane Junior School is now a community forum building where he delivers his ESOL lessons.

He said: “It’s safe to say all my previous educational experiences weren’t exactly good ones.

“At Sharrow Lane Junior School, it took two teachers to drag me screaming and kicking into the classroom. Living directly opposite the school, given half a chance, I would escape and run straight back home.

“But nowadays I walk in with a huge smile on my face.”

The father-of-three’s journey back into education began when he assessed his future after more than two decades working as a self-employed painter and decorator.

He said: “Dangling off a ladder 30 foot up in the air while painting someone’s guttering didn’t seem quite as appealing as it once did.

“Conscious I wasn’t getting any younger the thought of still having to climb and carry huge ladders in another 10 years time isn’t a comforting one.”

He found out about the online college through a friend and has never looked back. He left school with an art O-level and CSE grade two in English.

Since becoming part of the online college he has studied GCSE maths and English and done a foundation degree in e-communication over the internet as well as earning an A-level in psychology at Sheffield College.

He said: “Studying with the Online College has brought me tremendous personal satisfaction and opened new doors.

“I have found the energy, determination and conviction to strive forward onto bigger and better things that, at one time, I would have never thought possible.”

After graduating with a foundation degree he is setting his sights on teaching abroad, in Thailand where his wife is originally from, and where some of his family are based. The online college is looking to expand the number of courses it offers.

Having created a second foundation degree in e-business it is now in talks to see whether its NCTJ National Council for the Training of Journalism courses in photojournalism can also be delivered over the internet.

Julie Hooper, the Online College manager, said: “About 50 per cent of our students come from Sheffield or South Yorkshire but we have had students from all over the country and abroad – particularly in remote areas where people might not have easy access to a college. The lessons are all done through online tutorials and everything is set out for the students so that they can see exactly what they need to do.”

• SHEFFIELD College is celebrating the success of its former students by launching an alumni association. The Sheffield College Alumni Network aims to reconnect students to past friends and tutors and harness their business expertise to support current learners.

The college’s chief executive Heather MacDonald, said: “We have a vital role training students in the skills that industry needs, and encouraging enterprise. The achievements of our alumni, many of whom are inspirational role models in high profile and rewarding careers, are testament to that.

“We are delighted to launch an alumni network within the further education sector, given they are more common at universities, and would like to encourage former students to get in touch and sign up to this exciting initiative.”

Alumni are being offered the chance to get back in touch with former friends and tutors, professional networking opportunities, access to college facilities and services, advanced information about new courses, along with careers advice and guidance on enterprise and self-employment.

The more established alumni will be encouraged to lend their expertise to current students through master classes, mentoring services and apprenticeships.