Our Learners

Our Learners 2020-01-13T07:53:39+00:00

Celebrating the success of our learners

John McIntyre


John, 74, a qualified Chartered Accountant, spent his working life as a Financial Director of various SME’s. Following a devastating stroke 12 years ago John was forced to reassess how he worked and took on less demanding financial and tax work for friends and family until he was finally able to retire a couple of years ago.

After retiring my children never let me relax, buying me an iPad and setting me up with everything I needed to keep me connected and I still really enjoy travelling and keeping busy with my friends at Blackheath Rugby Club. I came to CALAT to study Italian as I wanted to retrace my Father’s footsteps from the Second World War and my history degree means I am endlessly fascinated with the Romans and everything they got up to!

 Having lost a lot of my ability to retain facts and figures I know I am not the best at learning Italian and I rely heavily on my fantastic tutor Emanuela and a very talented fellow student, Diana, without whom I couldn’t have continued the course but coming to CALAT is a lovely way to spend some of my time and has introduced me to a group of really interesting and diverse people. I would certainly recommend CALAT to anyone who wants to learn as an adult…it caters for everyone and they have been extremely attentive to my physical needs.

I’ll be here doing Italian until I drop and can’t wait to continue with my classes.

Andrew Hutson


Whilst working as a roofer I had an accident which meant I had to leave my job. Initially I was pretty down about it but my wife wouldn’t let me sit around and knowing I had always enjoyed design and photography encouraged me to really think about what I wanted to do going forward. A few friends had studied with CALAT over the years and had nothing but good things to say about it so I decided to enrol on a photography course and am really pleased I did.

I can honestly say I have enjoyed every moment of the course. The lessons are well paced and our tutor is brilliant, giving us space to explore our creativity with just the right amount of professional input when we need it, the other students are great as well and we have formed a great online social group to share our work and encourage each other…it’s been amazing watching us all become better photographers.

I am really hoping to go on and do the Level 2 and from there who knows? I have found my passion and CALAT has been a massive help in getting me there.

Amanda Ryan

English & Maths

Before coming to CALAT Amanda was a stay at home mum who knew that when she was able go back to work she needed to improve her skills and qualifications to get a better job. After research Amanda found CALAT on the internet and made an appointment.

Amanda was a fantastic student and managed to pass English levels 1 & 2 and maths levels 1 & 2 in just one academic year which rightly earned her an award for outstanding achievement. From CALAT Amanda went on to further studies and eventually got to University where she is studying computer science part-time.

‘CALAT gave me an immense amount of confidence where before I didn’t have much and was exactly what I needed to make me go on to further studies, I really got on with everyone on the courses and the teachers were brilliant and were great at tailoring the teaching to suit the individual.’

Would I recommend CALAT? Definitely. It’s a great place to learn, not only about the subject you are studying but about yourself and what you can achieve with a little effort and perseverance. If you’d told me a few years ago that I’d be at University I’d have laughed and I’ve got CALAT to thank for that. In fact, I loved CALAT so much that when I saw a job was available that fitted my skill set I just had to go for it…I’ve been working here since December 2018 and am equally happy on the other side of the desk!’.

Mary Jean-Charles

Computing & IT

When I was in class I was really conscious of my disability yet, I wasn’t going to let it be a hindrance and stop me achieving my goal, completion of the course.

Mary has mobility and visual disabilities as well as mental health issues and before enrolling with CALAT hadn’t worked for 11 years. After recognising that she still had a lot to offer and a lot to achieve she knew learning how to use computers was the key to moving forward.

I never really needed to use computers before so felt very anxious and emotional when I started the course and was afraid I might not be able to finish it.  Being determined to further my education in an area I was not feeling confident in, no matter how negative I felt and how challenging I found developing my IT skills, I kept going and it soon became a massive positive.

Despite me having a few wobbles along the way, I stuck it out and am so pleased to have finished. My tutor, Mr Chehraz, was great…really patient and supportive with me. His belief in me and my ability to achieve my learning goals has really made a difference in how I think about myself, he has given me so much confidence. I’m even convinced it has made a difference physically in that I have had to get out of the house and move about…I only live 10 minutes from the Strand House centre and at first it seemed like miles away but before long I was really looking forward to the journey.

 I now want to study criminology and psychology and have applied to Croydon College to start in September. I have to say, that without the knowledge and confidence I have gained at CALAT there is no way I would have applied.

I would recommend CALAT because the support I have received has been amazing and socially I have really come out of shell and I would recommend learning in later life as a way to keep your brain fit and healthy…use it or lose it!

Nicola Thompson

Floristry levels 1 & 2

Before I came to study with CALAT I was working loads of part time jobs to keep myself sane and pay the bills but I had wanted to study floristry and used to see the adverts for CALAT but childcare and work got in the way.

When my son went to University I finally had the time so in 2014 I enrolled on Level 1 floristry and as soon as that was finished I signed up to the level 2!

Whilst studying with CALAT I was getting experience in a couple of Florists but decided that to really progress I needed to go it alone so took a pitch at a couple of markets which was great because as well as gaining invaluable experience I noticed a gap in the local market and took the opportunity to open my own shop.

Due to its position the shop didn’t work out but I was able to move to a permanent pitch just near Norwood Junction station.

I love working for myself, there is a real sense of having to push yourself and knowing you are succeeding and achieving through your own hard work is so rewarding.

I’m really proud as all the hard work has been recognised and I was recently told I was a finalist in the Croydon Business Excellence Awards in the Love your Local trader category!

I would definitely recommend CALAT as it is local and the lessons fit in with your way of life, it’s a real chance to push yourself forward and realise your dreams.

Sawsan Maraqa

Family Learning

Sawsan came to the UK from Jordan in 2006, when her husband’s job relocated to London. Having worked as a researcher in her home country, she initially found voluntary work at Amnesty International. Using this experience, and her language skills, Sawsan found a position working on an Arabic website.

However, when she gave birth to twins in 2012, Sawsan’s world changed dramatically: with her family living in Jordan, she missed their support and felt isolated. Wanting to get out of the house to meet other mothers with children, Sawsan found a ‘Stay and Play’ session at her local Children’s Centre. The activity soon became part of their weekly routine as Sawsan could relax and chat to other mums, while her daughters played. She was also impressed that staff were always so friendly, helpful and ready to answer any questions about childhood development.

In 2014, Sawsan went on a CALAT Family Learning Parenting course which was being delivered in the Children’s Centre, which she enjoyed immensely. Not only did the classes help reassure her but offered great ideas for home learning activities to make and play with her children – ideas she replicates even today! Sawsan then began to explore some of the other CALAT courses, enrolling on the Functional Skills courses offered by Family Learning. Sawsan passed her Functional Skills Maths L2 and English L1 in 2015, followed by L2 English the following year. She emphasises how helpful the courses were in helping her in everyday life as well as in understanding her children’s homework: “It’s good to learn how and what they are learning and how you could help them.” The classes also gave Sawsan the opportunity to make new friendships, many of which continue today.

Building on her Jordanian education and encouraged by her new found confidence, Sawsan applied for, and has since completed, a post-graduate research degree at University College London.  

Liya Jacob

Computing and IT

After 16 years working in the retail sector I wasn’t content and knew I had to do something for myself and something which would get me the kind of job I really wanted. In essence I needed to reskill and for me that meant learning how to use computers properly. I took a year out and went to a couple of Adult Education colleges in South London to do some courses which is how I arrived at CALAT.

An agency recommended CALAT so I enrolled on a Level 2 Computing course. Accessing the information I needed was easy online and when I went for my assessment the staff were really helpful and keen to make sure I was doing the right course for my needs.

I loved the course, I used to look forward to going in for the classes which is not something I would have ever said when I was at school! The tutor was amazing and my classmates were a really fun group…there was one-to-one tuition if I needed it and it was always a safe, fun and pressure free environment.

After I completed the course I got a short term contract with Nestle but after 7 months a temporary job came up with CALAT and I just knew I had to go for it, I’m so glad I did and coming back to CALAT was a great feeling!

Learning with CALAT has increased my confidence and self-belief no end and I couldn’t recommend them highly enough. It’s funny, but I used to be the person who was always asking how to do things on a computer, now though it’s me people come to for advice!

Nikki Geordiades

Childcare and Education

Nikki achieved her Advanced Apprenticeship in Supporting Teaching and Learning with CALAT at the end of 2017, after sixteen months of study.

I had been employed for two years as a Level 2 teaching assistant working 1:1 with a child who had very complex needs.  I wanted to move away from a 1:1 role and felt that having a qualification would give me the confidence to seek further opportunities and training.

 Having not studied for over 20 years, I felt somewhat apprehensive about the course but my tutor (who was also my assessor) was very supportive and really encouraged me. Throughout the course, we took part in class discussions, asked questions and expressed opinions. This was a huge learning curve for me and really instilled self-confidence in my abilities as a teaching assistant. The content of the course was well organised and the learning materials clear and easy to use. I still use them for reference at work! The tutor was extremely knowledgeable, ensuring the course content was clear and informative.

 I feel that the course gave me a greater insight and a deeper understanding of how schools work. I have been able to expand on my existing knowledge and learnt new ways of thinking and approaching areas of education in relation to my daily practice.  I feel that I have grown in confidence as a direct result of the support and encouragement shown to me throughout the course by my tutor/assessor.

 This experience has led to rapid career progression.  I am now the ‘Lead’ Learning Support Assistant responsible for my school’s newly established DSEN provision, overseeing three learning support staff and responsible for those children that are unable to access the EYFS or KS1 mainstream provision full-time. I am now planning to enrol for a foundation degree, aiming to become a higher level teaching assistant or teacher. Thank you CALAT.

Karen Johnson

Arts and Crafts

Karen has overcome progressive health issues to find a new interest and passion for the creative.

Over the years I’ve had a variety of jobs, from nursery nurse in the Special Care Unit at Croydon University Hospital, I worked at the Home Office as a day nanny and then at a Doctors surgery for 12 years but then I was forced to retire as my osteoarthritis made working near impossible.

If I’m honest I was feeling pretty low about things but one day I brought my granddaughter to Croydon Clocktower where CALAT were having an open day and I thought that I had nothing to lose by enrolling so I did.

I have always been interested in art but like so many people was told I wasn’t any good at it when I was at school, being older and, I think, wiser, I ignored those voices and took the plunge…I can’t tell you how happy I am that I did.

I had to miss the first lesson and when I arrived for the next one I almost turned around and left. Everyone seemed to know exactly what they were doing and I was afraid I was out of my depth but Mark, our tutor, really put me at ease and allowed me to express myself at my own pace, if it wasn’t for him I don’t think I’d have had the confidence to see the course through to the end. I’ve made lots of new friends at CALAT, it’s great because nobody is here because they have to be, they are here because they want to be and that makes for a really lively and fun atmosphere in the classes.

Having not been able work since 2016 coming to CALAT gave me the boost I needed to find a voluntary role at a charity shop local to me which is another thing I am so pleased about.

I can’t wait to enrol for my next art class as the work I do both there and at home takes me to a place where time washes over me and I am in a state of relaxation without a though for my health issues.

I can’t recommend CALAT highly enough. Great classes, great staff…brilliant.

Jessica Emerson

ALDD and Study Programme

Jessica is busy!

Having started a Childcare level 1 course with CALAT in September 2017 she also finds time to study English and Maths and Planning for Life and Work as part of the ALDD curriculum as well as spending Friday mornings at a nursery work experience placement and having a busy home life.

My ALDD classes are brilliant and have really built my confidence and the Childcare course has helped me be much more independent so I now travel to and from CALAT on my own which I really enjoy.

I really enjoy working with children and am working towards a career in Childcare. My course with CALAT has been brilliant with interesting tutors and a great group of students, my favourite part is the work experience on Friday’s where I get to read to the children, take them out for playtime and sing with them. I can’t wait to enrol on the Childcare Level 2 next year!

I’ve always loved learning and if you do too then CALAT is a great place to come.

Ann Henry

Level 1 English

Ann had been working in a school as a kitchen assistant but after a couple of years knew she needed to make a change in direction, having previously worked with young adults and as a newly qualified youth mentor and substance abuse advisor she needed to improve her English skills to get the job she wanted.

Ann had been to other Adult Education providers in the Croydon area but found that she was not getting the support she needed which is when she found CALAT and started studying entry level English. During this time a tutor suggested she be assessed for dyslexia. My first reaction was to laugh, me dyslexic? No way! When I got the result so much fell into place and a real weight was lifted from my shoulders.

I’m no longer scared to learn and have learnt how I can make the most of every class I take part in, I know that anyone can succeed and all they have to do is get over their fear and make the leap, they’ll soon reap the rewards!

I’m doing my English Level 1 now and coming to CALAT has given me real confidence and where before I would literally walk around with my head down I now have a big smile on my face and my head is held high. Everyone has been amazing, the tutors are calm and patient and have encouraged me every step of the way and my classmates are a great bunch of people. I used to go quiet when friends would talk about their qualifications…now they can’t shut me up! Eventually I’m going to get my English GCSE, even if it takes me ten years, I love learning now, I really do.

Angel Tocknell

Business Administration level 2

I enrolled with CALAT as I wanted to study with a college that had experience of learners with mental health issues.

As I have Bipolar disorder, I get frustrated with long courses and wanted to study a shorter course and I was also advised the support was really good with CALAT if you had any problems during your time with them.

 The course, tutors and students were exceptional and helped me so much. The Business Administration Level 2 course I did was brilliant and the tutors and other students were all brilliant. Completing the course enabled me to have the confidence to apply for various administration vacancies.

 I’m really proud to say that I now have a part time job I absolutely love as Operations Administrator at Chessington World of Adventures theme park and I can honestly say I wouldn’t have got the job if I hadn’t studied with CALAT so a massive thankyou to them!

Amanda Pavon-Lopez


Amanda has studied gardening and photography with CALAT in the past, and is now working hard to improve her French with teacher Alex Beaufort-Cotter.

I went on a holiday to France three years ago, and was horrified to discover that I had forgotten all my schoolgirl ‘O’ Level French. It was very embarrassing to struggle with the most basic phrases, and to spend the whole holiday saying “parlez-vous anglais?”  When I came back, I resolved to brush up my language skills to avoid future humiliation, as I loved my trip to France and wanted to return.

I decided to join a class at CALAT, as I had studied other subjects before and really enjoyed the relaxed style of teaching and learning.  It was hard work, but the teacher, Alex, was fantastic and made every class fun and different. She works really hard to give us lots of games and activities as well as grammar and vocabulary, and we get so much speaking and listening practice that you can’t help but learn.  And the other students are great too. We all help each other and spend a lot of time laughing.  I have made some good friends in the class.

I originally only planned to study for a year to get my French good enough to cope with basic situations, but I enjoyed it so much that I’m still learning three years later.  We are now reading simplified books, discussing news stories and watching video clips. I can’t believe that we can do so much, even compared to last year!  When our electricity got cut off in a big storm last August while we were staying in the French Pyrenees, I was really proud that I could phone for help, and even follow instructions for changing a fuse – all in French!

CALAT has opened up language learning for me, and I love my Monday night classes! Merci beaucoup Alex et CALAT!   

Kim Huggins

ICT and Administration

Kim started studying with CALAT and the end of 2015 and has since gone on to pass 4 courses; ICT levels 1 and 2 and Administration levels 1 and 2.
Having worked in a Doctors surgery and as an Estate agent I would do anything I could to avoid working with computers. I was too embarrassed to admit to people that I had dyslexia and felt stupid because I couldn’t do even the most simple thing on a PC.

After CALAT was recommended to me I finally found the courage to sign up and I am so glad I did, it really has changed my life.

I had a bit of a wobble on my first course and nearly gave it all up but the teachers were so
engaged with me as a person as opposed to just a pupil, they saw my needs without me
having to express them and made me, for the first time, feel comfortable about my dyslexia which gave me the courage to truly open up and learn. I wanted to do it for my teachers as well as myself, Lesley, Maxine, Judy and Elaine were absolutely amazing.

We all worked as a team in the classes, we all had our strengths and helped each other out with the things that we didn’t understand, it was a real family unit.

After so many years of denial I realised that no matter how tough it was, and believe me it was really tough, I had to face up to my learning problems and deal with them. I used to think it was easier to fail…now I think you have to try your hardest even if it takes you out of your comfort zone.

I am so proud of how far I have come. You don’t have to write yourself off. There are places, like CALAT, where you go and learn and grow in an amazing environment and I couldn’t praise them more highly.

Kim is now applying for jobs as a receptionist or administrator and also in the Child care sector.

Sherine Nooks

Entry Level 3 English and Maths

In 2012 Sherine knew she had to make some radical changes in her life, this realisation led her to CALAT where she has been studying ever since.

Growing up in Jamaica, Sherine did not receive the kind of education we all deserve and it was not until she had two daughters of school age that her own education became a stumbling block to helping theirs.

Since enrolling with CALAT she has passed English and Maths Entry levels 1 and 2 and is currently studying for English Entry level 3.

Studying with CALAT has really improved my confidence and has made me push myself to the next level and continue improving. The staff are brilliant and have never let me give up when I have a rough day, I have made lots of friends with the other learners, we are like a little family and we all enjoying learning together. I am now able to help my daughters with their Maths and English homework and filling out forms and things is not scary anymore which gives me real joy .For that I could not recommend CALAT enough.’

 ‘Next I want to go on to study more advanced courses so I can find a good job in Health and Social Care. I have to keep pushing myself so I can learn more and so my daughters can see that if you want to achieve a goal then you must work hard.’

Leanne Gomes


When I first started learning Portuguese at home on my own in 2012 I found it really difficult. It was hard as many apps or websites only cater for Brazilian Portuguese and I wanted to learn European, it was also hard without a teacher there to explain things to you and other learners to practice with.

 I searched around London for classes and was so delighted to find CALAT, I’ve now been studying Portuguese once a week at CALAT for almost 3 years and I absolutely love the support from my tutor as well as the comradery and support from my classmates.

 My language skills are always improving and I love putting them into practice when I visit my husband’s family in Lisbon. Last year I even managed to get some practice in whilst visiting Rio de Janeiro.

 It’s not just my skills that have grown, it’s my confidence too. When I was learning by myself I would be too scared to attempt to try and communicate with Portuguese speakers in case I made a mistake or wasn’t understood. My CALAT tutor has given me the confidence to always try and have a go, and it’s improved my fluency so much.

It’s been really important to me to be able to have the confidence to speak and communicate in Portuguese as my husband’s family speak very little English. Being able to communicate with them has been a dream come true and I still love learning and progressing.

 In June 2016 I sat my Portuguese GCSE exam and achieved an overall grade A which I am so proud of! In August of the same year, my husband and I got married in Portugal and not only was I able to communicate to the florist, the venue and the photographer in advance of the day to help organise everything, I also managed to get through the entire wedding ceremony in Portuguese!

 I am looking forward to continuing to learn and improve at CALAT with the support of my tutor and my classmates. I would recommend learning a language to anyone, it helps exercise your brain but also opens up an amazing new perspective on other cultures.

Yadigar Garner

Our Learners 1

Maths & English Student

Yadigar came to the UK from Turkey 10 years ago to work as an au-pair. After marrying and having two children she went to university to study for an arts degree and it was here that she realised she wanted to become a teacher.

To do this Yadigar was advised that she would need to improve her English and Maths which is when she first came to CALAT and enrolled on an ESOL course. She studied hard to improve her English and achieved her Level 1.

Having taken all the right steps to achieving her final goal it was necessary for her to gain a Level 2 qualification in English and Maths and immediately she knew where she would go to get what she needed.

‘CALAT have been so helpful and understanding. They could see what I was capable of achieving where I could not and welcomed me on to the courses with open arms. I have also been working as a volunteer for the Learning Support department to get experience and develop more skills while I finish my teacher training which has been such a rewarding thing to do.’

Yadigar would not hesitate in recommending CALAT to other people saying, ‘I have met and made friends with people from all over the world while studying with CALAT, the classes are fun and the tutors are so kind, nothing is too much trouble for them as they really want everyone to achieve their potential. Some people have said I couldn’t do what I have done so I am very happy that I am going to realise my dream of being a teacher and pass on what I have learnt to other people’.

Rebecca Davies

Our Learners 1

Small Business Owner

I was already running a business that decorated cakes for dogs, crazy I know, but I wanted to improve my skills to take the business to the next level and knew CALAT was where I needed to go.

Attending the classes was difficult as I had just lost my mum and was suffering from panic attacks but all the staff at CALAT were amazingly supportive and they let me bring a friend to the classes which was the only way I could have got through them. At no point did anyone make me feel embarrassed or uncomfortable about my issues, they only ever wanted to help me.

I know CALAT doesn’t do cake decorating classes anymore but this is about the confidence and self-belief the organisation gave me to succeed and the support they offer all their learners.

Photo by grant Melton, Croydon advertiser

Trudy Harris

Our Learners 2

Early Years Education Student

Trudy completed her Level 2 introduction to Early Years Education and Care in July 2015 and used her qualification to on to bigger and better things.

‘Things are going really well since I finished my course. I have been working as an Early Years assistant in a pre-school nursery in South Croydon since May of last year and after getting my qualification was promoted to their 2nd SENCO (Special Education Needs Coordinator) in January 2016 and given the responsibility of those with SEN as my key children.

I’m really enjoying myself and really pleased I came to CALAT to study, in fact I can’t wait to start my level 3!’

Michelle Theophilus

Our Learners 1

GCSE English Student

When mother of two, Michelle Theophilus, decided to become a teacher, it was daunting to discover she needed to take GCSE English all over again. She was working more than 16 hours a week, caring for her disabled mother and pregnant with a third child but nothing was going to stop her. She did homework at dawn before the children were up and spent three hours in the classroom every Saturday. She worked at home and at the library.

“Fitting study round your life is challenging and you have to be very motivated” said Michelle. She praised her teacher Muniza Kahn. “Muniza was there for us through the week and happy to take calls, texts and emails if we had questions between classes.

Michelle scored an A-grade English GCSE and took another step towards her goal.


Trish Robertson

Our Learners 2

French Student

“I took French at CALAT to prove my old schoolteacher wrong. I was good at speaking and spelling French but because I wasn’t good at grammar my teacher said I’d never succeed. So I dropped French as soon as possible.

I didn’t take it up again until I was semi-retired (from opera singing). There were two reasons; I really enjoyed it when the languages coached at the Opera houses taught me sing in French, German and Russian. Also, I’m getting older and learning a language is good for your memory.

I very much like my teacher, Gaetane Jones. She makes me feel I can make mistakes. If I get something wrong she’ll correct me but in a sensitive, diplomatic way.”

Mary Simpson

Our Learners 3

French Student

Since I retired I have been attending a French class run by CALAT at Croydon Clocktower.  I had studied French for A Level many years ago, but I wanted to improve my speaking.  I have a house in France and need to talk to neighbours and to deal with all sorts of household matters.

The class is really great.  The teacher, who is French, gives us lots of opportunities to speak and provides an amazing range of activities on different topics. Using what I have learnt in my classes I’ve been able to write poetry, read a number of books and even take part in discussions on literature, philosophy and politics! I never thought I’d be able to do this in French but with the support of our teacher and the other members of the class it somehow seems quite easy, and I definitely feel more confident about communicating when I go to France.

We have to do homework every week – usually reading some chapters of a book and researching a topic.  At first this seemed like a bit of a chore but with all the encouragement I have received and the progress I can see myself making I came to quite enjoy it. After all, you need to put in a bit of effort to learn new things, and it’s definitely good for older people to keep the brain active!

Dan Jones

Our Learners 3

Spanish Student

Dan Jones always knew he wanted to travel.
After finishing University he worked up in London to save up the money he needed to make his dream come true. As South America was his chosen
destination learning the language was something he knew he had to do if he was to make the most of his adventure.

“I researched loads of potential learning venues for Spanish courses but CALAT was far and away the best choice. My tutor was excellent and I felt the course progression was really well measured with real results from the beginning.”

Dan passed his course and, with his girlfriend Catherine is now in the middle of a 12 month trip all over South America.