“Maths still makes me a little bit nervous, which is why I did my Functional Skills in maths first. In a way, I’ve always hated it, even though I’m fine with everyday maths. In a way it’s funny because I’m one who does the finances at home, even though my husband has a degree in Audiology and is a lot more confident than me.”
Despite this Jenny decided to face her fear and do it anyway. Working as a healthcare assistant at Darlington Memorial Hospital, she initially brushed up her English and maths skills six years earlier to help in achieving her Level 2 and Level 3 NVQs in Health and Social Care, which helped improve her confidence. This and her determination to progress further in her job spurred her on to be one of the first cohort of staff at the hospital to prepare for the Functional Skills qualifications.
“ I know I am going to need my functional skills qualifications to get into a Band 4 post, which I hope will be the route to nursing, so I did my maths first and am just beginning to prepare for my Functional Skills in English with the same group here at the hospital.”
Jenny is also one of the first cohort of staff in the County Durham and Darlington NHS Foundation Trust to follow the new progression route that the Bridges to Learning project offers, which provides a route through NVQs to the Open University’s K101 Introduction to Health and Social Care course, which she has thoroughly enjoyed, especially as it is her first taste of higher education.
‘I’ve worked hard to support my husband as he studied and worked part-time to gain his degree and now that he’s qualified it’s my time to get a move on with my learning “ she says, “ I missed so much of school in my early years as I was in and out of hospital for operations, so I didn’t do as well as the teachers expected me to do in my GCEs, and by the time I got onto my BTEC at college in Care I was so impatient to get to work with patients that I didn’t see it through. So now, even though I’m thirty six, I am so pleased to have this second chance.”
Jenny recognizes though that she and many of her colleagues would not take that step without the encouragement of their managers and other learning champions:
“Even though I’ve had a big break from education I haven’t half worked hard in the last year to get ready to get on with it now, but I might not have done it without the support of Sandra, our learning rep. She has been brilliant, really supportive. She knew I needed to brush up my English and maths to prepare for the K101 so she contacted me and here I am, maths done I hope and English underway.”
After ten years with the NHS, and with the encouragement of her manager, Jenny has now set her sights on nurse training, which the K101 helps with both the underpinning knowledge and proves her capability to study at a higher education level.
“I coped well with my English, as I think my skills were always good at school, but maths is different. There’s so much to cover in maths and people are taught so differently now than when I was at school. I have three sons under the age of eleven and when the eleven year old was watching me recently prepare for my Functional Skills test he said, ‘I’m doing that at school too mum’ he’s helped me with my IT skills too, which really helped me with my OU course.”
Though Jenny still has some fears about maths, she recognizes that passing the Functional Skills test will increase her confidence further:
“I think people are nervous about the change to Functional Skills, but in some ways I think it is easier because it helps you do maths in an everyday context. That’s why you can see how it is going to help you and it also encourages you to use other skills to understand and solve the problem. For instance, in our test, we had to plan and calculate flower beds. I easily understood the task as my English is one of my better subjects but I was a little put off at first as I am not especially good at art, but I can see why it is relevant. Thank goodness, art isn’t something that I need to be good at to make a good nurse!”