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Recently Simon Bridges added the Seniors portfolio to my responsibilities within National’s Caucus. It’s a demanding portfolio, especially with the recent international coronavirus outbreak adding to the challenges facing older New Zealanders and the organisations that support them, and I am working hard to meet with relevant organisations throughout New Zealand and help shape our Seniors policies for the looming General Election.

It’s often said that we are never too old to learn something new. Keeping our minds active and pursuing further study or training is a valuable way of staving off a range of age-related conditions and ailments. That’s one of the reasons why I am very pleased that there is a long-established and respected adult and community education provider in my electorate, based at Fraser High School.

For over 30 years, Fraser has been offering night classes for adults of all ages under the banner of Adult Community Education (ACE), which offers informal community-based education. Peter Faulkner, Director of ACE, believes it is an excellent opportunity to open up the school to the community: “We have wonderful facilities, in particular our Technology block is fantastic, and our programme offers a wide range of topics from business and career through to arts and crafts”.

  Peter Faulkner, Director of ACE

While each participant pays a course fee, some courses are supported by the Tertiary Education Commission (TEC) to assist with any literacy and numeracy needs of the students. This is a brilliant opportunity to encourage new learners, especially Maori and Pacific Islanders and those who feel their initial learning was not successful. The provision of this learning platform helps them to re-engage with their learning, to develop skills which potentially can lead into other learning opportunities that meet community learning needs.

With over seventy classes on offer, Peter has a stable of eighty tutors, many of whom have been employed as a result of calling into the school offering a particular skill or interest, for example bee-keeping. Peter says, “the most interesting of people will turn up offering natural talent which enables us to offer a diverse range of courses.” The balance of tutors are sought through advertising.

A less obvious, but none the less important benefit in attending night classes, is the strengthening of social cohesion as it enhances the learner’s ability to participate in society and economic life. People join a class, they meet others, they share, they connect and the act of getting out and about builds confidence and engagement in the community. “It’s an opportunity to get out and feel better about themselves and who knows where that leads,” says Peter.

Tutors are encouraged to talk to their students about the “next steps” and possible careers and there have been many success stories. Peter tells of a young man from Auckland who enrolled in a welding class which led to his securing a job and the cleaner who decided it was time to upskill by enrolling in a computer class to learn about Excel. This demonstrates that people are willing to change and move in a new direction.

Fraser’s ACE programme also collaborates with other groups such as the Western Community Centre, Ngaruawahia Twin Rivers and Waikato Institute of Leisure and Sport. ACE has students coming from as far afield as Matamata and Te Aroha to attend classes.

“I firmly believe in the value of education,” says Peter, “and it is very rewarding to be able facilitate these classes and provide wonderful opportunities for our community to enjoy.”

To learn more about courses that may be of interest to you, visit www.fraser.school.nz/adult-education . Details are also advertised regularly in community newspapers.

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