Essential Skills for Life Award Winner
Nominated by: Vale Learning Centre
Clare Palmer left school at 14 with no qualifications. Clare was passionate about helping others and dreamed of a career where she could give something back. But, by the age of 18, she was a mum with a baby son to care for
She worked as a hairdresser for the next 14 years to support her young family. When she moved back to Wales with her son in 2013, she decided to use her passion for helping others to become a care assistant. After six years working in the care sector, Clare dreamed of becoming a social worker. Knowing she would need maths and English qualifications to get accepted onto a social work university course, she joined the Vale Learning Centre and went on to complete her Level 1 Application of Number and Level 2 in Communication.
Clare discovered she would still need to gain an additional maths qualification to get into her first-choice university. So, a year after securing her first qualifications, she returned to the Vale Learning Centre to begin studying her Level 2 Application of Number. This came as she was working in the hard-hit care sector during the pandemic.
“I left school with no qualifications at the age of 14 and took my own path. I had my son, Taylor, at 18 and adulthood smacked me in the face. I love helping people. Putting a smile on someone else’s face and making a difference in their life is a great feeling.
In 2019, after completing a Level 3 Diploma in Health and Social Care, Clare gained more self-belief about how far she could take her career. She decided she wanted to take her passion for care a step further and apply to university to become a social worker.
By the time the pandemic hit in March 2020, she had achieved Level 2 in Communication and Level 1 Application of Number. From the age of 14 to 41 I’d done no maths or English. I was apprehensive at first and, honestly, I was terrible at it. But I threw myself into it and I know after just a few weeks that I’d had made the right decision
“I did so well in the first couple of months that I went on to do the Level 2 in Communication. The course was only two days a week, which meant I could continue to work as a care assistant while I was learning.”
At one point I was working up to 60 hours a week, sometimes working seven days in a row. We were exhausted. On top of that, I was trying to balance my own learning with looking after my son and keeping our house in order. I’m still not sure how, but we got through it. Reflecting on her experience of adult learning, Clare said: “It’s been tough at times but I’m incredibly glad that I did it. My experience has been fantastic, I’d really recommend it. I’m closer now than ever before to achieving my dream of becoming a social worker.