ADULT Learners Week got under way this weekend to encourage those who thought it was too late to go back to “school” to think again.

The week is a national celebration of lifelong learning and, through the many events being held from now until Friday, gives adults a taste of life in the classroom and the benefits of going back to education.

And PhD student Joseph Pryle, who went back to education 12 years after leaving school, says life experiences put people at an advantage when they are back in the classroom.

Now aged 35, Mr Pryle left school in 1994 and went on to complete a BTEC in Sports Studies at Wigan and Leigh College, before leaving the UK to go travelling and live abroad.

The former Rivington and Blackrod High School pupil returned in 2008 and, after coaching in Australia, went back to his old college to take his Foundation Degree in Sports Coaching at the Sixth Form Centre in Leigh.

He said: “I wanted to go travelling and had family in Australia. It was when I was coming back that I thought I wanted to do degree.

“Of course I had doubts, I was thinking those I would be studying with would have an advantage over me because they knew the system, but the case was that I had a lot of experience and, because I had done a range of jobs, I had a work ethic. All that was recognised.

“Initially I had a great experience at Wigan an Leigh College and felt that this was the place I should return to in 2008.”

Three years later, the keen sportsman, who is the coach at Blackrod Cricket Club, completed the top-up degree in Sports Coaching at the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan), where he achieved first class honours.

He then earned a scholarship for postgraduate study and went to Wigan and Leigh College to complete his teaching qualification before going on to complete a masters at UCLan and then embark on his PhD, which he is currently undertaking.

It was while coaching abroad that Mr Pryle knew he wanted to teach young people. He has taught at a local high school and is currently working with children with mental health issues in Bury.

He added: “I am proof that you can return to education at any age.

“With the support of my tutors and the college being local to me, I was able to turn my life around. I couldn’t have wished for much more.

“I couldn’t have done this without going back to education — and it can actually work out cheaper when you go back as an adult.”

Francine Mitchell, divisional manager for sport at Wigan and Leigh College, said: “Joseph is extremely hard working and dedicated and it’s great to see him achieving his goals with such success.

“There has never been a better time to be inspired by Joseph and we would urge anyone looking to return to education or thinking about higher education to find out more.”

For further information visit for Adult Learner’s Events, and the Festival of Learning which runs throughout this month.