Many mature students are apprehensive about going back to further education but former CONEL learner Emma Stenson not only overcame her fear of Mathematics - she went on to work in the Literacy & Numeracy Department at the College!
She has come a long way since the age of 18 when she became a single parent. To support herself and her child, she had to work, I left school with no qualifications. My worst subject was Maths; I couldnt get to grips with it. So due to having no qualifications, when I applied for work I was given the lowest paid jobs.
However, due to her hard work and enthusiasm, she soon got promoted to Bar and Night manager after working as a barmaid at a club in Brixton. After this, Emma realised she could achieve many things if she set her mind to them. At the same time, friends studying at CONEL could see Emmas potential and they encouraged her to return to further education.
When my friends talked about CONEL and how they enjoyed it there, I often thought itd be good if I went there but then Id get scared because I had no GCSEs. I was still especially terrified of Maths. Nevertheless, Emma went ahead and applied to the College to do an access course in Humanities & Social Sciences in September 1993-June 1994.
Despite taking that first brave step, Emmas lack of confidence meant that she often thought of quitting CONEL. Thankfully, friends and lecturers kept reminding her of the magic place inside where potential and success is born and she stuck to the course. In fact, she credits the support, academic and social, from the lecturers with helping her pass and encouraging her to continue her education by doing a BA Honours in History & Religious Studies at Middlesex University.
Her old feelings of inadequacy resurfaced when she started her degree and again she felt like dropping out, but she remembered she was equipped with the right tools and went on to pass her BA Honours with a 2:1.
I dont think I could have passed my college course or my BA without the hard work of the lecturers I had while at CONEL. They really helped me to believe in myself and I succeeded because of their support.
After leaving university, she decided to study to become a teacher as a way of inspiring others, as she had been inspired. But another stumbling block was the fact that she had to pass GCSE English and Maths to qualify to teach.
Despite her hang up about Maths, she tackled the subject but was not pleased with her choice of college. I studied both GCSEs at another North London college and I wish I hadnt. I dont feel I got the same level of support as I did when I studied at CONEL. If I hadnt kept reminding myself of all the hard work Id put in so far, I would not have passed. Emma gained an A* English but failed Maths. Only on her third try did she pass her dreaded subject.
But she didnt stop there. Emma then decided to study for a certificate in Adult Basic Skills. She then went on to become a volunteer in the Literacy & Numeracy Department at CONEL where she encourages learners by sharing her own battles and eventual triumph through education, I wanted to go back to the place that inspired me to believe that I could do it. The lecturers (from 1993) set me off on my journey through education and success. I wanted to say thank you and give something back.
Notes to editors:
1) For more information on the access courses such as Humanities and Social Sciences at CONEL please call our information hotline on 020 8442 3055.
2) For more information on studying BA Honours degrees at Middlesex University please visit the website
3) Picture caption: Emma proudly shows off her work desk.
- Last Updated: 19 November 2004