Gaining up to date relevant qualifications for the job that you want, or updating skills you already have, e.g. IT skills is one of the best routes to success for the older person who wants to show an employer that they have kept up with the modern work force, and can learn new skills.
However, in recent years it has become increasingly difficult to find free courses, and to be eligible for them. College’s which used to offer free studying to those on benefits or pensioners now charge a fee, which might be low but people on benefits just cannot afford it, or if you already have a level 2 standard qualification in any subject, then you cannot get free training for many courses, even if it is a subject that you would benefit from having a qualification in.
To illustrate this, I have O level English, and an NNEB (Nursery Nursing qualification,) but I do not have the basic skill core subject of GCSE or O level Maths, and have often found that colleges offering an equivalent maths course are unable to offer me a free place, as I have the equivalent of level 2 qualifications, even if it is in a career subject that I can no longer work in, i.e. childcare.
However, there are opportunities for free courses on-line… The Open University used to be able to offer free degrees to those on benefits but this is no longer the case and has been forced by the government to completely change its fees, restructuring it into line with general university fees. This was a big blow to the open university and its students because it showed a complete disrespect by this government for the ethos and history of the Open University, established under Labour party administration for the very purpose of enabling people to get a degree who otherwise would not, or for various reasons had previously been unable to study at university level, such as myself. I recommend Vision2learn, with whom I have previously studied Equality and Diversity and am just about to study business studies and admin.
With the Open University, it used to be that if you were unemployed, then your course was free. This is no longer the case and Open University students are now forced to apply for student loans, which would become repayable on the student earning £21,000 per year. However, I do not know how this would affect someone in my position, who would love to have a degree, but for whom the government could easily refuse a student loan on the grounds that a degree is hardly essential to a woman of fifty five who is likely at her medical assessment to be told by the department of work and pensions to get a job in spite of having arthritis, partial sight and a heart condition among the most notable of her health conditions, or she will be put on the work programme , and have to work in a £1 shop for nothing. I have a feeling that you don’t any longer get sent to Tesco’s to stack shelves since Tesco’s opted out of the scheme at risk of some very bad publicity from benefit claimants.
Since very sick people are being told that they are to do any job and if that be cleaning etc. and the physical effort kills them, then so be it, then to be honest even I have to admit I hardly could be said to need a degree…
I never thought I would see again the circumstances that surrounded my educational options in the seventies, when my dreams of university were literally beaten out of me physically by my mother. My crime being to jump out of my class, now at the time I saw this as being child abuse but being honest in hindsight, I wouldn’t say it is a wonderful thing but it does give understanding. I do wonder now that I am older and wiser and have more understanding of the financial and class based limitations people face, did perhaps my mother know exactly what my options were in a way that I did not? I’m never one to knock ambition, To the contrary I could have a degree in that, but facing facts,, it often is not our own personal aims and ambitions that shape our options, but our financial circumstances, and the government, as my mother discovered in 1937, when she was the first in her family to pass the eleven plus, but there was no grammar school place for her, as her mother could not afford the uniform. I consider this to have been a very cruel system as she was set up to fail and as a family, we still suffer from her experience today, but I can see this sort of situation becoming increasingly common in the years ahead…
If you do wish to study at University level, it is worth going to the website of the Open University and reading the fees information, where you get an idea of what help and options might be available, but it is now largely limited to applying for a student loan .
On the subject of my O level Maths, or rather the lack of it!! knowing that maths was not my first love or a subject I found easy, I sat the subject at CSE (Certificate of secondary education) level, the problem being that I twice failed to get the grade 1, which was considered to at least be the equivalent of an O level pass, albeit not a top grade. The difficulty was that it was not easy in any CSE (Certificate of secondary education) subject to get a grade 1, even in subjects in which I was good, e.g. Social Studies, where again I got a grade 2. I was encouraged by my teachers to sit O level maths which they considered I had a greater chance of passing, but I refused, not having the confidence… nor a mastery of Trigonometry!!
Having experienced a two tier system of qualifications, I would vote every time, if given the chance to keep the GCSE system, providing that is, the issue is addressed of students being given the impression that it is impossible to fail, and that low grades were no longer considered to be a pass.