Sophie Ackerman – photo supplied


Norfolk saw an increase in adults taking on new qualifications in 2020, despite a decline across the rest of the country.

Norfolk County Council’s Adult Learning service saw participation in qualification courses increase by 12%, compared to a fall of 19% in the rest of the country.

Their students also improved their scores by 3% which reversed the national trend where the rate of achievement dropped by 24%.

Denise Saadvandi, Head of Norfolk County Council’s Adult Learning service, said:

“We’d like to pay tribute to the students, tutors and staff across Norfolk who have seen their hard work and determination pay off in an unsettling year.

“Much of our success can be put down to our team’s adaptability when the first lockdown came in. Our courses had to move online as 98% of our teaching was based in classrooms but, by April, we had gone fully digital.”

The service was among only 6% of adult education providers nationally who had moved 100% of their learning programmes online by April and by the end of the academic year had delivered online learning to 3,000 people.

Margaret Dewsbury, cabinet member for Communities and Partnerships at Norfolk County Council said:
“The pandemic has shown Norfolk’s residents to be uniquely resilient in incredibly testing times. It’s encouraging to see so many people being able to continue their studies to help them move on to the next stage of their education or into employment.”

In Norfolk, 31% of adult learners progressed into Further or Higher Education while 28% are in employment. Meanwhile, 100% of the service’s apprentices who completed their apprenticeship have remained in valuable long-term employment.

Anyone who wants to make the next step in their education, further their career options or just learn a new skill can check out the latest course on the Adult  Learning Website.

Cabinet will discuss the Adult Learning annual plan when it meets at 10am on Tuesday, 1 February. You can read the reports and view the meeting live – or a recording afterwards – at

Case Study
Sophie Ackerman – Accounting Apprenticeship and AAT Level 3

Sophie is studying for her Level 3 AAT accountancy qualification as part of her apprenticeship with Norfolk County Council. Accounting was a completely new field to her.

Sophie said, “I studied History at university and this apprenticeship has allowed me to actually have a career in Finance. It was perfect for me as someone who had lots of transferable skills to bring to my role, but not the qualifications or knowledge to thrive in it yet.”

When the first lockdown came in Sophie’s had to move her studies fully online. The transition was unexpected but, with additional support from her tutor, it went well.

She said, “There have been regular video chats where my tutor asks if there’s anything we’d like to review. Even if you personally don’t have anything to ask about, someone else is likely to, and it helps to reaffirm your own knowledge. Our tutor is also very good at replying to our messages when we have any questions.”

She feels supported by both her peers and her manager, saying, “I worked very closely with another apprentice as we were in the same team, and it really helped when it came to studying. With the apprenticeship there is the scope to go and learn in a few different departments, my manager was quite keen for me to do that if I wanted to.”

To anyone thinking of a change of career Sophie advised, “If you’re like me and you have your sights set on a career you’re not necessarily qualified for, it’s probably the best thing you can do. Working whilst studying really does help you understand the learning you are doing and relating them to the tasks you are performing at work, so it is the best of both worlds.”

Sophie will be taking her AAT Level 3 exam and is interested in the opportunity of progressing to the AAT Level 4 qualification.