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International Women's Day

This International Women's Day, we want to focus on celebrating the effort and achievement of women, especially those with close connections to Kent. We want to shed light on the lives of women who we revere as our role models and who we look up to. Whilst there are hundreds of stories we'd love to share, here are just a few of our favourites...

Vicky Seagars at the awards ceremony

A story about overcoming - Vicky Seagars

After Vicky fell pregnant following completing her A-Levels, she became consumed by a depression that affected every part of her life. And after her second child was born, she again started to do less and less with her friends and quickly gave up on all of her dreams. She was suffering daily panic attacks and felt unable to go out alone. Soon, Vicky felt that it is causing suffering not only to her but to her whole family.

After her eldest enrolled in school and Vicky was suffering another setback in her mental health, she visited the Family Liasion Officer - Sue - at her child's school. Sue listened to Vicky and helped her get more counselling to battle her issues, but she also encouraged Vicky to think about her dreams and about what she'd like her life to look like, something Vicky hadn't thought of in a long time. Sue told Vicky that she is welcome to join Family courses running at her child's school, provided by Kent Adult Education. Whilst Vicky had her worries since she had been out of education for seven years, Sue helped her overcome those and get back into learning.

On those courses, Vicky met other parents who had similar worries or anxieties and she soon felt less alone. Vicky soon started to remember what it was like to enjoy learning and trying new things. One course turned into two, turned into three. She actually wanted to enrol on a Family English course but her grades were too high. Instead, Vicky's KAE tutor encouraged her to take a bigger step and apply to University to finally realise her dream of becoming a midwife. With her and Sue's support, Vicky applied and was soon accepted.

Vicky is now enjoying her life and career. She says: "I have realised it’s never too late, with the right support and the courage, to go outside of my comfort zone. If I can do it then anyone can, it’s so important that those opportunities are there for people to just take one step at a time, then they really can continue to learn for the rest of their lives".

Browse our Family courses here
Denise Mcgivney Nolan

A story about learning - Denise McGivney-Nolan

Meet Denise, one of our inspirational History tutors who just never stops learning! Denise’s journey into the past started with her degree in Irish Politics, Economics and Sociology. But her interests don’t stop there. After graduating, she focused her efforts on building a career in advertising. Then, after moving to Kent, Denise enjoyed feeding her creative side through studying the intricate art of millinery under Rosey Cory, a milliner to the Queen Mother. Since then, she has enjoyed making hats for herself, her friends, and her family. Denise loves teaching at our Adult Education centres because it combines her love of history with her love of fashion and all things creative. But her focus is also on her students. Denise says: “I love meeting new people and having lively discussions on things we all hold an interest in. I enjoy imparting my knowledge on aspects of history that students would otherwise not be aware of”.

Denise encourages her learners to be open in class and prides herself on the conversational nature of her courses. She uses a mixture of different media to convey her teachings to students and to bring history to life. It is of utmost importance to her that her learners are enjoying their educational journey. Denise says: “I want to help each and every student get the most from my courses so I talk to them and make sure they are getting what they need from each class”.

Browse Denise's courses
Heloise Coffey

A story about passion - Heloise Coffey

Heloise is another one of our talented tutors who is truly passionate about what she teaches. She was always interested in literature, art and history, and she gained a BA, MA and a PhD following her deep interest in these subjects. Having always lived in the south-east of England, Heloise was aware that the region is overflowing with a history of famous artists and writers. It was obvious to her that she needs to turn her attention to following this history personally, and she began to visit the places they lived and the locations they enjoyed. Heloise says: "As a keen walker, I have, in many instances, literally followed their paths".

And whilst she juggles a busy home life with her teaching career and research, nothing is more important to her than her passion. As she says herself, "nothing gets in the way of my pursuing my love of art history, both visual and written".

Heloise's courses are truly fascinating as she packs them full of her own wide knowledge and digs deeper into the subjects of the course, providing students with lesser-known facts and quirky aspects of artists' or writers' lives. She truly helps to bring them to life in a classroom environment. She enjoys interacting with all her learners at an individual level and shapes her classes around the students.

Browse Heloise's courses
Jennifer Picture

A story about achieving - Jennifer Burgess

Jennifer had always been passionate about creating and experimenting with different materials. Eventually, she took the plunge and enrolled to complete an Art Foundation diploma at Hastings College of Art and
Design. She wasn't satisfied after getting her qualification and went on to study for a BA in Silversmithing, Goldsmithing and Jewellery at the Kent Institute of Art in Design from 2002 to 2005. After completing her degree, Jennifer went on to complete a residential year with the Bishopsland Educational Trust, which provided her with incredible opportunities. There, she was taught by some of the best in the industry, including Rod Kelly and Malcolm Appleby. She also enjoyed a two-week residency with the Bonhoga Gallery in Shetland where she taught workshops and exhibited her work.

Because of her outstanding work, Jennifer was invited back to the Kent Institute of Art in Design, but this time as a teacher. She went on to start her own practice with a studio in London and Edinburgh and she also exhibited her work at shows such as Lustre in Nottingham and Goldsmith’s Fair in London and in galleries across the United Kingdom.

We are very proud that Jennifer shares her varied knowledge and experience with our students here at Kent Adult Education. She says: "I think it’s really important to pass on skills and share knowledge, especially where craft is concerned. Without this, traditional skills would be lost, there are many heritage crafts that are at risk of being lost forever. Fortunately, this is not the case for jewellery and silversmithing. The workshop at Gravesend has many beautiful tools that have been used for years and years, they still work just as well as the day they were first made. Some of the tools have been hand-made and traditionally a jeweller would have made their own tools. I think it’s incredibly special and I feel privileged to be able to teach traditional skills using tools that have their own history".

Browse Jennifer's courses
Liz Kelleher

A story about following dreams - Elizabeth Kelleher

Elizabeth always loved art and studied it at college but went on to teach primary and special education for many years. Finally, when enjoying a family holiday in the Lake District, she purchased a beautiful etching by Simon Bull. This struck a familiar chord within her and Elizabeth was once again inspired to start pursuing her passion. At this stage, Elizabeth was combining raising children with part-time teaching, so she wasn't sure if it would be possible. However, after some research, she discovered that her local adult education centre had a print studio and also a crèche. Soon enough, she became an enthusiastic member of this print studio and was completely fascinated and addicted to printmaking and its many processes. And it wasn't long until her work and passion returned results; Elizabeth went on to exhibit her own work in many galleries. Her work is also held in permanent collections, for instance, in the Scarborough Museum Trust and in the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.

Now, we are lucky enough to have Elizabeth as a tutor with us here, at Kent Adult Education. She is a brilliant teacher and her courses are very much led by her learners. Elizabeth says: "We feed off each other, sharing and extending ideas and skills. We are always learning and building on technique. Including myself!"

Browse Elizabeth's courses

Famous women with links to Kent

Virginia Woolf

Virginia Woolf is one of the most celebrated authors and feminists of the twentieth century. From 1919 until her death in 1941 she spent weekends and holidays at her country retreat, Monk’s House near Lewes. There she wrote some of the best-known novels and essays.

Barbara Leigh-Smith or Barbara Bodichon

Barbara Leigh-Smith or Barbara Bodichon was a Victorian campaigner for women’s rights. She has two surnames because she continued to use her own name after marriage, which wasn’t unusual for Victorian feminists although it may seem a modern idea. Barbara Leigh-Smith championed women’s right to work and to be educated decades before the better-known Pankhursts and the Edwardian ‘Votes for Women’ campaign. She was also a talented artist. She lived near Robertsbridge and in Hastings, and she painted many beautiful watercolours of the area.

Lee Miller

Lee Miller was a Surrealist and a war photographer whose powerful photos of Germany after the defeat of the Nazis are among her most famous images. After the war, Miller lived at Farleys House near Lewes where she was visited by leading figures of Modern Art such as Picasso and Man Ray. It was said that when taxi drivers in Newhaven picked up a passenger with little English, they would automatically take them to Farleys House.

Vanessa Bell

Designer, artist and member of the Bloomsbury Group, Vanessa Bell lived at Charleston Farmhouse near Lewes from 1916 until her death in 1961. One of the first English painters to experiment with abstract art, she is probably now best-known for her interior designs and for the home she created with Duncan Grant at Charleston.

Radclyffe Hall

Writer Radclyffe Hall lived in Rye from the 1920s. Her 1928 novel The Well of Loneliness was one of the first books to deal openly with lesbian love. Born Marguerite Radclyffe Hall, she dropped her first name to create an androgynous-sounding name as a nom de plume. She dressed in men’s clothing (she is said to have owned ninety-four neckties), smoked a pipe and had her hair cut at the gentleman’s hairdressers Truefitts of Bond Street. Hall came to Rye to escape the publicity when her novel went on trial for obscenity. Today it’s her best-known and most popular work.