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Fashion student Bernadette Taylor, 72, wins Festival of Learning award

fashion mannequins

Bernadette's first day at UEL was reported by ITV News

University of East London fashion student, Bernadette Taylor from Stepney, east London, has been announced as the winner of Festival of Learning’s Senior Adult Learner Award for her exceptional achievement in adult learning.

This award celebrates adults who, through learning, have transformed their own lives and the lives of their families, friends, their communities, and the places they work.

Bernadette, age 72, left school at 16 without formal qualifications. After years of caring for others, both in her personal life and her job as a nursing assistant, Bernadette realised she now had the time in retirement to begin a new learning journey and achieve something for herself.  

After seeing an advert for New Beginnings evening classes at the University of East London, 72-year-old Bernadette decided it was time to return to learning and realise her dreams.  

Although initially anxious because of her age, Bernadette signed up for the 12-week New Beginnings course which prepares people who have been out of education for a long time to embark on a degree programme.

Bernadette excelled at all elements of the course, from writing essays and delivering presentations, to overcoming nerves about technology, and has now embarked on a BA in Fashion Design at the University of East London.  

Bernadette’s long-term goal is to complete her degree with a fashion show where people diagnosed with cancer are the models and stars for a day. 

Bernadette commented on the impact her learning has had: “New Beginnings has taught me to believe in myself.  I am finally doing something just for me”.

Dr Caroline McGlynn, Bernadette’s New Beginnings programme leader, said, “Bernadette threw herself into learning and brought an energy and glamour to the classes. She epitomises the phrase ‘lifelong learning’.”  

Stephen Evans, Chief Executive at Learning and Work Institute, said: "We are delighted that Bernadette is this year’s Senior Adult Learner award winner. Bernadette’s story shows that learning can help you to achieve your goals and realise your dreams, whatever your age.”

"Festival of Learning is all about inspirational stories of people like Bernadette who show that anyone can benefit from learning. Lifelong learning is vital for all of us as jobs and society change around us.

"We encourage everyone to give learning a try, particularly in June when hundreds of free activities can be found on our Have a Go Month calendar. Further information on learning opportunities and support with the costs of courses is available through the National Careers Service, colleges and community learning providers."