Adult education courses in Surrey - it's never too late!


If you’re thinking that 2015 is the year to add a new string to your bow, then you’ll be amazed at the wealth of courses provided by Surrey Adult Learning. From astronomy to belly dancing and social media, here’s a few of them that caught our eye...


Originally published in Surrey Life magazine January 2015



Reach for the stars and learn all about our place in the universe at an astronomy course. Here, you’ll discuss the night sky and how our view of this changes throughout the year, while also learning how to choose a telescope matching your needs and budget; how to set up and use it; how to find stars, planets and deep sky objects; and how to take photographs of them. Stellar! Courses take place in Camberley on Wednesdays, starting from January 28.

Lip reading

Did you know that if you are beginning to experience hearing difficulties, you can learn all about lip movement and tactics to manage the more awkward listening situations? Courses run in Camberley, Molesey, Sunbury and Woking, taking place on various dates on Tuesdays and Wednesdays in January.

Most Read

Belly dancing

Why restrict belly dancing to the Middle East when it’s such a great way to keep fit and tone the muscles? This easy-to-follow, low-impact course will help you perform basic belly dance moves, steps and combinations, all while developing body awareness. Classes take place in Camberley, Guildford and Farnham on various evenings.

How to look at paintings

Fed up with visiting galleries with a clued-up partner who doesn’t always share their expert knowledge, or tired of dinner table conversations that stray to the arts? Well, there’s a local adult education series that aims to help. How to look at paintings will help you do exactly that by showing you how to understand composition, colour, light and techniques. Learn about the work of 20th century war artists, including Piper, Sutherland and Stanley Spencer, on the next course, which takes place in Molesey on Saturday March 21.

Social media 

Still not sure what people are going on about when they say, ‘oh, I did send the invite via Facebook’ – or don’t know what to do when you get there? This course aims to give you an understanding of what social media is and how to use it through practical experience of using the likes of Twitter, Facebook and YouTube; and an understanding of how using social media can increase confidence and social awareness. Head to Guildford for this class on Saturday February 28.

Scribble, sketch and draw 

Explore your creative side at this course covering bite-size drawing topics designed with the grand ambition of “transporting you to another world”. You don’t need to be artistic or have designs on being a ‘great artist’ but you can learn some basic sketching skills and discover how therapeutic art can be. Head to Sunbury on Wednesday January 21.

Pottery and clay work

From one-day workshops to 10-week long courses, there’s options for all levels of potential potters. If you are a beginner, you will be introduced to the basic techniques of pottery – pinching, slabbing and throwing – as well as then glazing and decorating or colouring your work. If you have done pottery before, you will be given projects to enhance your current skills. There’s a great selection of courses across the county in Camberley, Farnham, Guildford, Woking, Esher and Sunbury.

Classical Greek

French? Spanish? Mandarin? Pfft! How about Classical Greek?! Whichever language you choose, learn the greetings, how to order food and drink, shop for clothes and more. Sessions are lively and the emphasis is on developing speaking and listening skills. Choose from a range of courses across the county.

Get to know your iPads

Did you know that you can download Surrey Life for your computer tablet and then zoom in/out as required, if normal magazine reading is proving more of a challenge these days? What’s a tablet? Well, these one-day workshops aim to bring you up to speed. By the end, you’ll be able to connect to ‘Wi-Fi’ networks, understand the ‘cloud’, be able to snap pictures or film clips, use ‘safari to connect to the internet’ and more. Head to Camberley, Guildford or Woking on various dates during January.



In love with the buildings you walk among every day and always wished you knew a little more about their stories and how the architects went about their design and construction? Well, if so, this could be the course for you. Learn about the great architects of Surrey, modern architecture, structural wonders and more at Esher or Farnham (there are also five-week courses in the latter).




Course locations

and further information...

Camberley Adult Education Centre

France Hill Drive, Camberley GU15 3QB

East Surrey College *

London Road, Redhill RH1 2JX

Esher Green Adult Education Centre

19 Esher Green, Esher KT10 8AA

Farnham Adult Learning Centre

25 West Street, Farnham GU9 7DR

Guildford Adult Learning Centre

Sydenham Road, Guildford GU1 3RX

Molesey Adult Learning Centre

Ray Road, West Molesey KT8 2LG

Sunbury Adult Learning Centre


The Avenue, Sunbury On Thames TW16 5DZ

Woking Adult Learning Centre

Bonsey Lane, Westfield, Woking GU22 9PE

* Courses in the boroughs of Epsom and Ewell, Mole Valley, Reigate and Banstead and Tandridge are provided by East Surrey College

• For more information on all courses, search for adult learning at or call 0300 200 1044



Originally published in Surrey Life September 2008

Words by Debbie Ward / Photos by Alec Kingham

Have you ever had a yearning to learn Norwegian or take up making stained glass? Or perhaps you simply want to get your new computer to work? Whatever your ambitions or interests, there's likely to be an adult education course in Surrey for you


When Susan O'Riordan began adult learning classes nine years ago, little did she imagine that one day her handiwork would end up on stage at the Globe Theatre. It was a ruff trimmed by Susan and her classmates on a Sunbury lacemaking course that took the starring role in a performance of Shakespeare's A Winter's Tale. "We all made two or three inches each," says Susan, who lives in Hanworth. "We actually put it in for an education competition and ended up winning a trophy for it!" Class tutor Chris Prentice, who produces professional lacework for theatres, had the idea of involving her classes with the ruff. They've since produced a second for a touring company and the original is back in the spotlight in an exhibition on theatre at the V&A. Around 15,000 people in Surrey are enrolled in adult education and, this year's new brochure contains details of 852 courses across 85 subjects. Arts and crafts classes are particularly popular and Paul Hoffman, the new adult learning manager at Surrey County Council, believes they play an important role in keeping our heritage alive. Keeping traditions alive "We're all developing these global interests, which are changing constantly, but there's a British tradition around quality craft making and I think it would be a real shame if that dropped." Susan is certainly helping to keep Surrey lacemaking alive with her biggest project to date also in the public eye.

"I've made a lace garter for my niece's wedding," she explains. "It's white lace with a blue ribbon. I've also made necklaces and bracelets for the bridesmaids and for the bride herself and now she wants earrings to match." While craft options tend to be the most popular, there are hundreds of adult learning courses to choose from in Surrey. Languages are another favourite with Polish, Mandarin and Norwegian among the more unusual options. "The main reason people learn is because they have Polish parents who came over to the UK after World War II," says Aneta Kopka, who teaches Polish at Woking. "People tend to learn the language when their parents have died, just to bring back memories, I suppose." With links to the UK stronger since Poland joined the EU, Aneta says some of her learners have taken up the language because they are marrying a Polish person or because they've bought property in the country. However, Mary Collyer, who lives in Woking and attends classes there, started Polish simply for the challenge.

"My daughter was home from university and we thought it would be nice to do something once a week together," she says. "I chose Polish because it's different really. I did history of medicine before; I like to go for things that are a bit unusual." Though she admits pronouncing 'tz' and 'rz' sounds is tricky, Mary's enjoying the classes and has already tried out her new skills on a couple of Polish waiters. "They said I had a good accent, which was amazing!" She adds: "We hope to go to Poland at some point because our tutor has told us a lot about the country as well and we've got interested in Polish culture." Something for everyone Mary is visually impaired so Aneta has provided tapes to help her study at home. When she previously studied French through adult learning, Mary used worksheets in Braille. Surrey County Council is keen to encourage learners with disabilities both in regular classes and on its supported learning courses, which include computers and cookery for those with mental health needs and yoga adapted for physical disabilities. People who had a bad experience at school are also known to benefit from the supportive environment of adult learning. "We've got excellent tutors who want people to relax and engage with courses without the threat of failure at the end," says Paul Hoffman. "But if people do well we encourage them to move on to qualification-based courses if they want." Artist Karen Greville-Smith certainly knows that adult learning can lead to bigger things. In fact, she is such a fan of Surrey's evening classes that for years she's travelled from her home in Berkshire to attend a drawing and painting course at Guildford. A freelance graphic designer, Karen wanted to keep up her painting on the side, seeing the classes as 'me time', but as her skills improved and her graphics work dried up, she recognised an opportunity. She now sells her pastels and oil paintings in several galleries and teaches art to school students and mental health patients. To top it all, one of Karen's paintings was accepted at this year's Royal Academy Summer Exhibition - and it sold as well! "What's wonderful about the course is it's not just about drawing and painting - we also discuss the contemporary art scene and history of art," says Karen. "Everybody's at different levels but nobody is made to feel inferior. "I wouldn't be where I am today if I hadn't had access to the class. It's given me a new career." One of the challenges for Surrey's Adult Learning Centres is to serve people's changing interests. "Things tend to go in cycles," says Paul Hoffman. "TV can be quite a strong driver for what people get into. For instance, if antique restoration has been on the TV we get a boost in numbers for that." The manager of the Guildford centre Jo Christophers agrees - she believes TV has influenced some younger students to join their Cookery for Men courses. "It's fashionable for men to cook again," she says. "I think it's because of the likes of Jamie Oliver and Gordon Ramsay." While would-be chefs favour the centre's evening classes, the daytime ones attract retired gents. Some, like Don Watts, have been coming for years. "After the death of my wife in December 2004, a friend of mine who was doing the courses said, 'why don't you come along?'" says Don, who lives in Guildford. "My wife did all the cooking so it was really starting from the beginning. I could dabble, make scrambled eggs for instance, but give me a recipe to work with and I'd shudder." Now Don can turn out a variety of dishes from waldorf salad to coq au riesling. He even entertains friends and family. "It has been a wonderful experience and it's opened up lots of avenues for trying different food," he says. Varied benefits Don has enjoyed the social side of lessons, too, and says he has found them of emotional as well as practical benefit. "It's been terrific for me," he says. "Particularly with losing my wife, cooking has been a great healer. My tutor, Pauline, was extremely encouraging. "I probably wouldn't have continued if she hadn't supported me so much. That's what adult education is all about really."  

What to choose...

Adult education in Surrey: Further information

For more information, pick up a brochure from your nearest adult education centre or library or visit