Manchester Adult Education Service (MAES) has received approval from government inspectors for its inclusive and ambitious curriculum, high quality education and training and passionate leaders.
In their report, published this week, Ofsted inspectors rated every aspect of the service as good, from its overall effectiveness, quality of education and adult learning programmes, to provision for learners with high needs and its leadership and management.
The service – which has over three thousand adult learners at centers across the city, with most learners studying courses in English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL), digital skills, English, maths, early years and health and social care – was inspected in for three days in June.
Inspectors highlighted the respectful and inclusive learning environment in which learners learn, which gives them a sense of belonging, and enthusiastic teachers who support and encourage them, resulting in learners being happy at MAES and proud of their achievements.
The report praises leaders, managers and governors who it says are passionate about delivering and fostering a culture of compassion and care through an inclusive and ambitious curriculum that is tailored to meet the strategic skills priorities of Manchester and the wider city region.
Inspectors found that most learners make good progress and benefit from high quality education and training that is informative and varied, delivered by teachers who are well qualified and hold relevant professional qualifications.
The range of opportunities offered through MAES for learners to help them develop their personal and social skills were also identified as positive by inspectors – including speaking clubs for learners on ESOL courses and enrichment activities including a community football program and a local food charity for high-needs learners.
Inspectors also praised the support provided to learners to find future employment through a comprehensive careers strategy in MAES provision, with a high proportion of learners progressing into employment or further study after completing their courses.
They noted that as part of the Make it Happen careers programme, most learners benefit from careers guidance and opportunities that help them move on to their next steps and develop the knowledge, skills and behaviors they need to progress in their personal lives, communities, work and further study, while developing their communication skills and growing confidence in their courses.
Councilor John Hacking, Executive Member for Skills, Employment and Leisure, Manchester City Council and Chair of Manchester Adult Learning Services Board, said: “We are very pleased that despite a difficult few years during the pandemic both for learners , and for staff, the service has managed to maintain its previous good rating, which is due in no small part to the hard work and determination of all involved.
“We already have plans in place to further improve the service and are excited about what lies ahead for the service and for learners.
“As the cost of living crisis bites us, we are more determined than ever to do what we can to help people get through it, and Manchester Adult Education Service has a key role to play in that.
“It has something to offer that can really help adults of all ages and abilities to learn and thereby earn.” Whether it’s improving your basic maths or English skills, upgrading your digital skills or help with CV writing and interview techniques, there’s plenty of support available and who knows, taking a course with MAES could be the start of a bright new future not only for you but for your whole family.”
One trainee who has been helped into work after taking courses with MAES is Joanna Hyder, 41, from north Manchester. Originally from Romania, the mother-of-three is celebrating having recently secured a job as a library assistant at Manchester Libraries after taking courses to improve both her English and maths.
A good student when she was at school in Romania, when she arrived in Manchester she found that the English spoken here was very different to what she had learned at school.
She said: “I thought I could speak English but when we arrived I couldn’t understand what people were saying to me. I used to be afraid to talk on the phone, I was terrified to call people like doctors because I didn’t understand what they were saying and I was afraid to try to understand me.”
With no friends or other family here and a young baby, combined with the pressure of repeated lockdowns during Covid, the mother of three decided she needed to do something to improve her language skills, so she enrolled in an English course at level 2 with the IAEA.
She said: “At MAES you really focus on what you study. There are no distractions and everyone on the course is there because they want to be – not forced to be there. It was a really good experience for me, I made friends on the course and it was great.”
As well as completing her Level 2 English qualification, Joanna also decided to improve her maths and completed a Level 1 Maths course, then successfully completed a Level 2 Maths course.
She said: “Maths has always been like a horror story for me – I just didn’t get it, my brain was blocked for maths, I just didn’t get it. But if you have a good teacher – like I did here in Manchester – it makes a hundred percent difference. I started doing it and the teacher was brilliant and suddenly I thought it’s not that hard after all and I passed my level 1 and then I also did level 2 maths and passed that. So all of a sudden I’m like a math genius when I didn’t understand it at all before! It’s great and I’d like to go on and do my maths for GCSE at some point.”
The learning hasn’t stopped there for Ioanna – this year she sat her GCSE English exam with results due any moment, completed a level 1 digital skills course and also took part in a special focus week organized by MAES for getting a job – how to get a job, different types of jobs, interview skills and how to write a good CV.
She said: “It was a very good course and I recommend it to everyone. I used to dread job interviews, but after completing the course I felt a lot more confident about them and I think it really helped me get the job in the library.”
Joanna firmly believes that adult education is for everyone and that it’s never too late to get back to learning, and so strong is her belief in this that she has even started volunteering with MAES – helping classroom teachers to explain things to other learners.
She said: “Adult education is not just for non-English speakers, it is for anyone who wants to improve their skills and knowledge and get a better job. It’s never too late – your age doesn’t matter, it’s not If you get into it – you’ll learn things that will help you and it might help you get a job or volunteer like me, which is also a really good way to improve skills you are.”
Another student who has returned to the classroom as an adult is Faiza Chohan, who lives in north Manchester.
A good student who always did well at school in Pakistan and went to college there to sit A-level equivalent exams, the 37-year-old mother-of-two worked part-time in an administrative role in the NHS but decided to return in learning to help her children with their studies.
He started going one day a week to the Abraham Moss Adult Learning Center where he completed a Level 2 English course and also a Level 1 Maths course before going to the Greenheys Center to complete a Level 2 Functional Maths course – the results of which he expects in the next few weeks.
If all goes well, she is due to start a foundation year in business studies at Salford University in September and then plans to go on and study for a degree in the subject.
She said: “Learning with Manchester Adult Education Service has been good for me. The staff were really helpful and my confidence really grew. At first I thought I was too old to study and I was worried if I would remember things and how to study, but it was great.
“The lecturers were really helpful, they explain things really well and the courses were very practical – it wasn’t learning from textbooks, it was school. The courses were much more practical than that, they would give us scenarios to study and learn from there.
“It was also very different to being at school – there’s no pressure in the adult education classes, it’s not like school where the teachers give you a deadline and you’re scolded if you fail. Things are much more relaxed, so it’s easier for you to learn when the pressure is on you.
“The great thing about the classes for me was also meeting other people – the professors and the other students, interacting with them and interacting with them – so I made new friends from my classes.
“I would say if you want a good job or a better job then you should really consider doing some courses. It was great for me.
“I’ve got my confidence back and now I’m looking forward to starting my first year at Salford University in September and then I want to go on and get a degree.”
Find out more about the courses offered by MAES here