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Knowledge, Academia

Room to Learn


International Day of Education falls on 24 January and it comes at a time of year where we often set new goals for the year ahead. Whether it’s to get better at cooking, read more, start a new sport, or scratch up on a foreign language – we all strive to learn, and Oxfordshire is full of ways to satisfy this craving.

Here at OX Magazine, many of us have taken advantage of these opportunities, for a variety of reasons; some of which may resonate with you personally. If you’re looking for something new, here are some good places to start.

Sophie Elkan, Editor

Revisiting a hobby

I like to think of myself as fairly creative, but I’ve always channelled this elsewhere. I’ve always loved art but it had taken second place to other things in my life until, together with a friend, I started going to the fantastic Life Drawing classes that were held on Tuesday evenings at the much-missed Jam Factory.

Then, when my daughter took Art for GCSE I started to become interested in the idea of taking a more formal approach myself, not just doodling and drawing but actually learning the principles of colour, light, shade; everything I glazed over when I studied art at school in my eagerness to crack on with getting paint or pencil on paper. I looked around for classes and soon found the courses run by Abingdon and Witney College. They had a full range and so I signed up for the Beginner lessons which were held at a convenient time for me, at a local school less than a mile away from where I live. It was a really mixed group of students and our teacher was able to adapt the lesson to meet the pace. I found the experience really invigorating but also very relaxing: having two hours a week of intense focus on learning gave me an opportunity to switch off from day-to-day issues and concerns. I am now thinking about what to do next. I’m quite tempted to continue with Painting and Drawing but also like the idea of pursuing Photography, maybe as an A level. I think the whole experience has served to remind me that age is no barrier to learning.

Jill Rayner, Managing Director

Fulfilling a Passion

I suppose the first thing I thought when receiving the request for comments from those who had revisited education was that actually I hadn’t. I suppose that’s primarily because I assumed that education meant classrooms, blackboards, and fear of failing (it must be an age thing). Then I realised that any form of learning, for any reason, is in fact education; and my decision to attend a basic massage course and then decide to progress to a two-year qualification in holistic massage – although to me felt just like fulfilling a passion – actually meant I could now open new doors if I wanted.

The commitment to three hours classroom tuition each Friday evening, weekly coursework and weekly practise is certainly not to be sniffed at when you have a full-time job and more, so I suppose if I hadn’t been so passionate about the subject and enjoyed every single minute of it, it could have been quite a lot to take on. My tutors and fellow students on the Oxford School of Massage course, however, are exceptional and they are equally as determined that we will succeed.

I know going forwards there will be areas that I will find quite challenging, and I have to say I am a little nervous, but like most things in life – if you don’t give it your all you’ll never know.

Eloise Lonsdale, Editorial Team

Filling the gap that compulsory education left

A few years after I finished my A-levels, once the novelty of never having to see my English teacher ever again had worn off, I found myself missing learning. I had spent the last year of school complaining about homework, riddled with anxiety about exams, wishing my time in education would come to an end but in actuality I love learning: we all do, but I just wanted to do it on my own terms. School, unfortunately, doesn’t really offer much of a choice other than to cram content into your brain for you to later regurgitate onto an exam paper, but that’s not what learning is all about – it’s about letting yourself stumble on what you enjoy and what you actually want to learn.

It’s for this reason I signed up to a Philosophy, Arts and Humanities course at the Open University. It’s full of my favourite parts of what I learnt at school, and never feels like a chore to engage in. What’s also great about it is that I can start and stop according to whether my life has space for it, so when work gets hectic, or I need some downtime I put it on hold. This way, I avoid getting burnt out by learning, and retain a positive relationship with education.

We learn all the way through our lives, whether it’s by accident or on purpose. It could be within our careers, when we make a lifestyle change and have to adapt, or it could be when we make a conscious effort to challenge our brains. I don’t think the latter should be designated for when we’re very young and likely with undiscovered interests. If you’re looking for something super low pressure and really specific to your interests the Open University have ton to choose from.

Mya Richardson, Digital Team

Bulking up the CV or learning for work

Like many, I didn’t really enjoy school and wanted to leave and start my career rather than continue on to university. I also wasn’t sure on which direction I wanted to go in, and so felt that spending the time and money on a degree I wasn’t sure I’d use would be the wrong choice for me.  

I started at Fyne Associates (publishers of OX Magazine) to do my work experience. As my hours increased I moved into the area which I was more confident in – digital and social media. I use Instagram and TikTok a lot in my private life, but didn’t have formal qualifications in this field. I was given the opportunity to learn on the job in the form of remote learning and internal and external training, all of which was hands on and really suited me and my learning style. This not only made me more confident in my current role but I know I now have some really valuable, transferrable qualifications in digital marketing and social media.  

If you’re interested adding to your CV, or if you’re thinking about moving into a new field or even, like me, you want to improve in a job you’re already in, there are loads of different options of courses of Google Garage, all of which are totally flexible so can work around your schedule.

Louise Preece, Accounts Team

Perusing interests at the right time

I had always wanted to be an accountant, however at 16 upon leaving school, the thought of more years in education filled me with dread so I got myself a job in the bank. After a few years, I decided this wasn’t for me as it became less focused on the number-crunching which I thrived on.

I moved into IT and grew my expertise in the field of first line support to the military on their computer systems and IT infrastructure. While I did enjoy this, long hours took their toll on my son (being a single parent). He was only four going on five years old, and the childcare provider used to take and collect him from school which caused him some distress – he needed his mummy there giving him the attention.

I spoke to my boss who agreed (albeit not willingly) to let me take a career break to concentrate on my son. This was my opportunity to relook at my passion for number-crunching and I enrolled on an AAT Accounting course at Abingdon College as a mature student. I thoroughly enjoyed the course and did every extra module I could, even though it was a bit intimidating being one of the oldest on the course (at the mere age of 29). The college then invited me to start teaching the part-time AAT Accounting students as I was so enthusiastic, which I did and again, really enjoyed.

My son turned himself around because of my decision, and we have had the best relationship ever since. He aced his GCSE’s and was accepted into BMW as an engineering apprentice. He still works there at the age of 25, with a private pilot’s licence under his belt, ready to start his commercial licence as soon as finances permit.


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In the rich tapestry of English history, few figures loom as large as St George, the patron saint of England. His legendary exploits, particularly his valiant battle against the fearsome dragon, have become ingrained in the cultural fabric of the nation. Yet, amidst the myths and legends, the historical details of his life remain somewhat elusive.

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I still love all things needing petrol to make them work; especially cars and bikes, so I’m a pariah in the eyes of many, which is ironic as the word ‘pariah’ originated from India which is where much of our motoring manufacturing has gone.

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Wed 13 Mar 2024

The Right Honourable Countess Bathurst, affectionately known as Lady B, has long been involved in her local community. She lives with the Earl (and her beloved dogs) at Cirencester Park and has served as president and patron of many local charities, as well as a stint as High Sheriff of Gloucestershire and Ambassador for the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner for the county.

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