'A worthwhile choice'
Returning to education as a mature student is frightening decision to make. However, it is often the only option for adults who wish to improve their career prospects, with job competition tougher than ever. Furthering your education could mean you will have the edge over your components. Returning to college is also a great way to broaden your horizons. If you have ever considered going back to college as a mature student, now is the time! Sinead Moore spoke to a number of adults who made this brave decision
Shirley Barry, Glanmire, took the plunge and went back to college four years ago after over 12 years in the workforce. Shirley studied childcare and special needs at Nagle Community College with a view to becoming a special needs assistant.
The course was one year long and Shirley described it as "a daunting experience". The course is full time, five days a week. According to Shirley, you really have to be "sure it is what you want to do".
Shirley chose to return to education because she wanted to work with children in a school environment. As part of the course, Shirley completed a project on children with autism and three weeks work experience in the autistic unit within the college. She also completed two weeks work experience in a primary school and, she says, this "really helped me decide that this is what I wanted to do".
Shirley didn't realise there would be so much worked involved in the course, "there were a lot of assignments but I got through it and it was worth it in the end. The year flew".
"A lot of people had never been to college before but they received a lot of help from the tutors".
Shirley had previously studied purchasing materials management directly after leaving school and worked with a buyer in a multi-national company for a number of years. Shirley's kids were very young and she decided she wanted to do something different.
"I then studied to be a fitness instructor in UL and set up my own business but after 12 years I got fed up and decided I wanted to work with kids. The course in Nagle Community College ran during school hours so it meant I could work with the kids schedule which was great".
Shirley received eight distinctions in her exams and was then offered an interview for the position of SNA in Nagle Community College. Shirley was successful and has been working with the school for the last four years.
Shirley set up a gym in Nagle and she works closely with occupational therapists to teach coping skills to children with sensory problems.
"These kids need a lot of stimulation and these exercises are very beneficial in overcoming social problems", Shirley explains. She also set up a sensory garden which includes "water features, wind chimes, fish and other things which help with the development of everyday needs".
Shirley explains her goal as an SNA: "I hope to help the kids socially integrate so that they can use the skills they've learned once they leave school".
"We focus on what they are good at and then put them into situations where they can improve their skills".
Shirley described her work as "rewarding and satisfying".
"It was a big step but it didn't have as big an impact on me because I had been to college before. The tutors were really good in giving us the help we needed. The computer course and the work experience were so helpful in building our confidence".