A Day in the Life - Mandy Riddy

 
Wed 22 Jan 2014

Teaching people who thought they might never learn

Mandy Riddy reckons she has one of the most fulfilling jobs of all the staff at Milton Keynes College.  As Deputy Director of Academic, Foundation and Care Studies she has responsibility for a wide range of people from already well-qualified students from overseas who need a qualification in English, to adult learners struggling with literacy and numeracy, to those of all ages with learning difficulties or disabilities.

“I left school without many qualifications myself and it wasn’t until I was in my thirties that I went to university and trained as a teacher,” she says.  “I had a second chance at education, something I’ve never regretted for a second.  I was just drawn to the idea of helping other people realise that if school hadn’t worked out brilliantly for them there were still opportunities for learning.”

“For the older students the idea of coming into the College and being surrounded by lots of bright and bouncy teenagers is pretty daunting,” she says.  “We go out into the community to help them and run classes in places like church halls and libraries where they’re accessible to a lot of people.  Often they have their own children who can read better than they can.  They don’t want to be left behind by them and that’s what gives them the courage to sign up.  Once they realise it’s not at all scary, that the other people in the class are in a similar position and that staff just want to help, their confidence grows and they often go on with their education and take even more courses.  When you bump into someone after they’ve left and they’re working and raising families and are so much happier with life it can be incredibly rewarding.”

At the other end of the scale but equally satisfying is teaching young people with learning difficulties or disabilities, an area which has more than doubled its student numbers under Mandy’s tenure.  “It’s often the things the rest of us take for granted which are the most important,” she says.  “For some of our students being able to do something as simple as preparing a meal is a real mountain to climb.  If we can teach them to get on the bus, go shopping for ingredients, pay at the tills, bring everything back on the bus, cook it and share it with their friends, it’s not just an incredible confidence boost, it’s also one more step towards them being able to live independent lives.  For some of our students that’s something they and their families never dared hope for.”  Now the launch of the new College Horticultural Centre at the Chaffron Way campus means that in future those same young people will be able to grow all the fruit and vegetables thy need to enhance those cookery skills.  “For many their time at Milton Keynes College could enable them to look after themselves in the future and perhaps find work rather than having to be cared for by family or state Care Workers for the rest of their lives. It’s that important.”

Ask Mandy what she does in life outside College and quick as a flash she’ll say, “What life?”  However, she does find time outside work to be an MK Dons season ticket holder and has been going to watch the team since the “hockey stadium” days.  She is a keen gardener and has two golden retrievers who need lots of exercise, but at any given moment is most likely to be found in and around the College.  “Call it what you want,” she says, “rewarding, fulfilling, satisfying; when you see the look on a person’s face when they’ve achieved something they never thought possible – that’s as good as it gets.”

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