COSC was originally set up to allow people with physical disabilities to meet up in one place, but the centre has now developed to provide much more than a social gathering.
Based across two centres, in Cleator Moor and Maryport it works with the WEA in Cumbria to support a wide range of courses that make real differences to people’s lives. They include Media Studies, Health & Fitness, Creative Writing, Digital Camera classes, Steve’s Swinging Seventies and ‘People’s Parliament’.
"The courses prove to be a good opportunity for people to air their opinions and voices, some very passionately as well" – Sarah Edwards WEA Course Organiser
"Everyone is treated exactly the same here – that’s why we all love coming so often. I try to get here twice a week" - COSC Learner
Following a successful ‘Learner Voice’ funding bid, a conference took place at Hundith Hill Hotel, Cockermouth in January 2009 for members of COSC. Learners from both centres attended along with staff and WEA, totalling numbers of about 60.
The aim of the conference was to compile a view of a cross section of people on the subject of adult learning, a challenge too good to resist. The ‘Our Voice’ class based at Cleator Moor threw themselves into the task of creating a suitable range of activities that all learners could participate in. They decided to do a comparison study on learning value, contrasting experiences at school with post-compulsory adult learning that is more tailored to the needs and wishes of the individual. They concluded with a survey on the opinion of future adult learning. In total, three questionnaires were devised to be used in the debate.
The conference began with a celebration of success stories and a presentation of certificates. Members were encouraged to recap on their learning highlights; this included a power point presentation on World War 1 for the Family History group. Learners were keen to stress how much they had enjoyed their learning, especially Media Studies which has run in both centres and will be back by popular demand later in the year. The morning session ended with a game of COSC ‘Who wants to be a Millionaire’ just to see what learners had remembered from last term!
Following a delicious lunch and a ‘Who’s Who?’ quiz from the Family History course, learners worked hard to get their thoughts and experiences down on paper to complete the three questionnaires and conference evaluation. The results proved to be interesting. Only half the group had a positive learning experience at school and did not feel that their education prepared them for life as an adult.
There was a huge variation in the range of adult learning, including workplace learning, higher education as well as vocational learning and leisure courses. Learners expressed an increased motivation for learning as an adult and valued the skills they have developed. The concept of lifelong learning for all was a common theme, and all expressed a determination to continue with their learning.
It was concluded that adult learning enriched the lives of all participants. Motivation came from numerous sources, such as a need to develop new skills for work or a desire to take up a new interest. School usually provided a good basis but lifelong learning is a continuous process which never stops.
The conference was a great success. Learners and staff all benefited from getting the two centres together and hearing about each others learning experiences. The day was recorded and a DVD & photographs produced. Definitely a day to remember!