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It’s never too late to start learning again… and again

Going back to study as a mature student can be daunting but it can also be a most rewarding and fulfilling experience.


Lisa Gregg from Cloughmills, who now works for The Coleraine Chronicle as edition editor for The Ballycastle Chronicle, embarked on a career in journalism after completing an Access course and passing GCSE English at Northern Regional College in Ballymena.


This paved her way to university and, when she was 30 years old, Lisa graduated from Ulster University with an honours degree in Journalism and Publishing Studies.


Lisa admitted that she did not truly appreciate the value of education while still at school. However, now that she is older and knows from personal experience how studying as a mature student has benefited her own career progression, she is a firm advocate of adult education and further education.


So much so, that last year, Lisa decided to go back to Northern Regional College to take a GCSE Maths night class, hoping that this time, it would be third time lucky.


“I’d been thinking about resitting my Maths GCSE for longer than I can remember. My son was starting an apprenticeship course at Northern Regional College, and I looked at the prospectus that was kicking about the house and decided the time was right.


“I had my English GSCE and a Journalism degree, but maths had always eluded me,” said Lisa, admitting that number crunching was not her thing and, when her children were younger, she had struggled to help them with their maths homework. 


“I love English, and I love my job but when any press releases with statistics come in, I’d have to call on outside help. 


“After seeing the prospectus, I signed up for the Maths GCSE class at the College in Ballymena on Wednesday evenings. It was close to home, and I could fit it around my full-time job.”


Although she was initially apprehensive, Lisa quickly realised that her concerns were unfounded.


“This was my third time to attempt GSCE Maths. I got a ‘F’ at school and ‘D’ second time round so I wasn’t overly confident. From the first night in Dave Anderson’s class though, I felt at ease as he was so encouraging and supportive.


“I never understood maths before, and I’ve no doubt that Dave’s teaching style helped me pass Maths GSCE. He made learning fun and you could tell that he put a lot of effort into preparing work for our classes which encouraged me to work even harder to match his effort. 


“Although I was the oldest in the class, I never felt out of place. We all got on great and supported each other. It was completely different from my previous experience of learning maths which, at times, was humiliating.”


Lisa added that finally achieving her goal of sitting and passing Maths GSCE was a major confidence boost.


“I always felt I had to point out to people that I didn’t have GCSE Maths. When my children were younger, I drummed it into them that they had to work hard at school and then wouldn’t have to study like me when they were older.”


Her encouragement clearly paid off as her daughter is now a final year Law student at Queen’s University Belfast, while her son is a second-year apprentice at Northern Regional College. 


Lisa said that as the weeks went by, she realised that, not only was she understanding more but she was actually enjoying maths. 


“Sunday mornings became my study time. I’d do some homework for the next week and go over what we did the week before, absolutely chuffed with myself that I knew how to do algebra, especially since I was terrified of it the first (and second) time around.


She embraced maths with such enthusiasm that while on holiday in Tenerife in February, instead of her usual poolside reading, Lisa was going over probability and outcomes, factorising, expanding brackets, ratios and compound measures. 


Encouraging anyone who shares her previous aversion to maths, Lisa said:


“If going back as a mature student to do your GSCE Maths (or English) is something you’ve been thinking about, stop thinking about it and just do it. I can assure you that the GSCE maths class at Northern Regional College will be a completely different learning experience from what you knew at school. The support is so good that you will want to keep learning.


“Being able to say that I have finally passed GCSE Maths means more than I ever say, and I can’t recommend Northern Regional College and in particular, Dave Anderson enough.”


Northern Regional College offers a wide range of full time and part time courses. Visit for further information. 


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