LAST CHANCE? Tonny Barrett Meets the Mature Students Who Are Determined to Save the College That Gave Them a Chance at Success

Article excerpt

THE Second Chance To Learn college has given countless people confidence, self-esteem and, most importantly, an education.

It has been commended by Ofsted and two of its former students have gone on to be lord mayor of Liverpool.

And it has helped scores of mature students who previously had no qualifications find their way to university or jobs they probably never imagined they could get.

But now Second Chance is to be scrapped as a result of government cuts in the adult education budget.

In an attempt to prevent the closure of the pioneering course which began in Liverpool 30 years ago, past and present students have come together to fight against the decision.

The clock is against them though, as bosses at Liverpool Community College have decided that the course will finish at the end of this summer term, with staff moving to other departments.

Acclaimed writer Jimmy McGovern is among those who says Liverpool simply cannot afford to lose an asset as important to its population as Second Chance.

"As far as I'm concerned Second Chance is one of the jewels in Liverpool's crown," says Jimmy, who worked as a tutor on the course for a short time in the mid-1980s.

"It is about educating people who have been failed by the education system, giving them an opportunity that would normally have passed them by.

"It shows them they have a place in society and gives back the self-esteem that has been knocked out of them."

Jacquie Johnston-Lynch, 44, Mike Axworthy, 55, Marian Belton, 64, and Lynn Mills, 40, certainly provide compelling evidence in support of Jimmy's argument.

Each and every one of them represents a different chapter in the Second Chance success story, which has now spanned three decades.

Jacquie, from Dingle, who now runs Liverpool-based addiction therapy centre SHARP, says she would not be where she is today if it wasn't for Second Chance.

She says: "I came upon Second Chance 20 years ago. At the time I was a mum of two and I'd left school at 13 through truancy.

"I had this overwhelming sense of desperation to know where I fitted in in the world but I didn't know what to do about it.

"Then I saw a leaflet in the library for Second Chance and I decided to give it a try and I haven't looked back since.

"It made me the person I am today."

Mike, from Garston, tells a similar story: "I'd worked since leaving school but then I was made redundant and there weren't many jobs about.

"I had a desire to learn and I started on Second Chance but I couldn't complete the course for financial reasons - I had a wife and two kids and a job came up on the Garden Festival and I had to take it.

"But I always vowed to go back and complete the course. I had to give up work in 2002 because I was diagnosed with cancer and, even though I was facing a life or death situation, I knew having to give up work gave me the opportunity to go back. …