Thursday, 21 November 2013

NEC tutor’s lifelong learning legacy

Former NEC classics tutor Eileen Sellars, whose legacy of £19,000 to NEC
is supporting students who have to overcome disadvantage in order to study,
photographed in 1944, the year she graduated with a Diploma in Education.

What comes to mind when you hear people talking about lifelong learning? For most of us, it is the excitement of learning something new, no matter how old we are and regardless of what our experience of formal education has been. Lifelong learning is about gaining qualifications, certainly, but it’s also about learning for the sheer love of discovering more about the things that interest us most.

A former NEC classics tutor, Eileen Sellars, has taken her love of learning one step further through a £19,000 legacy to NEC. Thanks to her gift and her lifelong passion for learning, 27 people are now setting out to change their lives through learning. Eileen, who died in 2011 at the age of 88, asked us to use the money to support students who have to overcome disadvantage in order to study. We agreed with our Trustees last year to set up the Eileen Sellars Bursary Fund and to look for charities to work with whose clients live in circumstances that make it challenging for them to find the money and the time to learn new skills and sit for exams.
Today, we celebrate the culmination of our work over the last year with the announcement of partnerships with three charities: Crisis, St Giles Trust and the Refugee Council. In NEC’s 50th year and thanks to the generosity of Eileen, 27 of the charities’ clients are taking the first step towards achieving qualifications that will help them into employment.

Eileen worked for NEC from 1970 for around 20 years, and tutored on several different subjects including English, learning skills and Latin. Born in 1922, she went to school in Manchester, graduating from the University of Sheffield with a BA (Honours) degree in French and Latin in 1943. After studying for a diploma in education and qualifying as a teacher, she worked in schools throughout South Yorkshire. She joined Sheffield Girls High School in 1963 (by chance the year in which NEC was founded) as assistant teacher in the classics department, remaining there until her retirement in 1982 and teaching classics and music. As well as her legacy to NEC, Eileen also left £7,000 to the Department of Music at the University of Sheffield (PDF) as a prize for a student who produces an outstanding composition on the theme of an English nursery rhyme.

Crisis works with homeless people throughout the year, but it is at Christmas that its work moves into the spotlight. Working with 8,000 volunteers, Crisis provides a hot meal, shower facilities, healthcare, dentistry, physiotherapy, hairdressing and podiatry services to around 4,000 homeless people in London, Newcastle and Edinburgh.

St Giles Trust aims to break the cycle of offending by supporting people who have been in prison to change their lives, training ex-offenders and providing housing and family services to 16,000 clients a year. Around one third of the charity’s staff are ex-offenders.

The Refugee Council works with asylum seekers to help them into jobs and find somewhere to live. Over the last two years, there has been a 10 per cent increase each year in the number of people seeking asylum in the UK – more than 21,000 in 2012.

The 27 people who have started their NEC courses so far have chosen subjects as diverse as GCSEs and International GCSES in English Language and sociology and ‘A’ level biology. The most popular choice, though, is the certificate in Preparing to Teach in the Lifelong Learning Sector (PTLLS). I am particularly delighted by the popularity of the PTLLS course as it means the impact of Eileen’s legacy is set to spread far beyond the group of people who take NEC courses though the three charity partnerships.

As we celebrate NEC celebrates its 50th anniversary, I have no doubt that our founder Michael Young and Eileen would both be delighted that NEC continues to change the lives of people whose needs today are no less distinctive than those of our first learners.  We wish our newest students success with their courses and will post on the blog about their achievements over the coming months.

Ros Morpeth
Chief Executive

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