Learning Stories

We know that learning has the power to change lives.

Our learning stories feature Bristol citizens who share how learning has made a difference to their lives and the many ways and places that they have learnt – through friends, activities, formal education and work.

We want to gather as many learning stories as possible from across the city and we would like to hear from you! Click here to submit your learning story.

Featured Learning Stories

Talise’s Learning Story

Talise Learning Story

My name is Talise and I’m 10 years old from Victoria Park Primary School in Bristol.

I have been learning how to play chess every Thursday in my class for the last year. It wasn’t at an after-school club – everybody had to learn just like literacy or maths. Before I started playing chess I thought it would be really difficult, but my class was taught by very experienced chess teachers and so once I started playing I found it really fun.

I enjoy playing chess because I like playing against my friends and also getting the opportunity to compete in tournaments. Recently I got to go to City Hall to represent my school at chess. There were two boys and two girls in my team – chess is fun that way because girls play against boys, and older children play against younger children. It doesn’t matter if you’re older or younger, because it’s a brain game not a physical sport.

Learning how to play chess has given me confidence with maths; because it’s such a complex game you have to think about lots of different things at once, work out what the next move could be and be determined not to give up. Very often when you’re solving problems in maths you won’t get it right the first time, but in chess when you lose a game you learn from it because you pick up winning strategies from your opponent. I now try to learn from my mistakes in other things too, like maths, and if I don’t get the right solution the first time I try to see where I went wrong and I try again.

Chess has also taught me how to be respectful; at the start and end of each game you have to make sure you shake hands with your component. I’ve also had to learn how to cooperate in a team, because when we compete in tournaments we have to play in a group together.

I have now taught my mum and brother at home how to play chess too, as they didn’t know how to before. We all find it really fun and we’re always playing together.

Pip’s Learning Story

Pip's Learning Story

I am an intern on a supported internship called Project SEARCH. Project SEARCH is all about learning skills to find paid work whilst working in three different placements, with support from a tutor and a job coach.

Project SEARCH is a big change from going to college, as our classroom is in a council building and we go out to our work placements every day!

My most recent placement was with the Performance and Customer Engagement team in Citizen Services at Bristol City Council. My mentor and team were very friendly and supportive, which helped me to learn a lot. Just a few of the things I have learnt about are customer service, using Microsoft Excel and managing my own workload.

Some things have been easy for me to pick up, like communicating with my colleagues. Other things, like data entry, have been more difficult, but I have always stuck at it and have felt very proud when I have learnt new skills.

I would really recommend this work placement to other Project SEARCH interns – it was wonderful!

At the end of each day, I go back to the classroom with all of the other interns and we write diaries and talk about what we have been doing at work. This means we also get to learn things from other people’s experiences, as well as on our own placements.

Most of all my work experience placements on Project SEARCH have taught me a lot about working life, and have made me feel much more confident about going out into the world of work!

Annabel’s Learning Story


I try to learn something new each year. Some years it’s something significant that I learn to love and continue to enjoy; other years it’s something that keeps my interest for a while but falls by the wayside. For me it doesn’t matter if the thing endures, it’s the act and the excitement of learning new things that I love.

Last year I decided I’d learn about jewellery making. It’s something completely different to what I do in my job and it gave me a creative, hands-on experience that I wanted to try. I thought I’d make a few horrible necklaces and give it up, but this feels like one of the keepers.

I started by buying a few beads, bits and chains. Then I started to look at some websites to learn some new techniques.

I showed some friends some of the pieces I’d made and they all asked me if I’d do another for them or as presents for others.

I started experimenting with other techniques; shaping metal, soldering, leather craft. Then I started talking to other people via social media and the internet and learnt loads more. I got inspiration from books and magazines. My Amazon and Ebay bill started to increase, as I bought materials to make new items, but I also sold most of what I made so I broke even or made a bit most of the time.

I’ve learnt about marketing, about paint finishes and about rust. I learnt about tools and health and safety (mostly as a practical consequence of using the tools improperly!). I’ve learnt about Pinterest and other social media sites and I’ve learnt that lots of my friends have equally creative hobbies.

This year I’m considering signing up for some formal classes, but until now I’ve learnt enough to make a few hundred pounds, met some really interesting people, made new friends and had countless hours of enjoyment – all from free websites, a couple of magazines and a whim that I like to learn something different each year.

Mark’s Learning Story

Mark Lemon

Learning a new skill as an adult can be a great challenge, especially when balancing life with a young family and a job. In 2013, I made the big decision to study for my diploma in shopping centre management.

At the time I was a retail analyst at St David’s Shopping Centre in Cardiff, Wales. As a thirty-six year old dad, the thought of studying for the next two years was an extremely daunting prospect, but one that I needed to take on for our future.

A large part of my studies was on the job learning. Throughout your life sometimes you meet people who act as mentors, pushing you out of your comfort zones; my previous manager was one of these people, and I am very thankful that he pushed me to complete the course. As you would expect the diploma covered all aspects of shopping centre management: marketing, managing people and retail. I gained a lot of new skills, especially when managing people.

One of the best learnings I took away from the diploma was how important it is to step back and take a look at how you come across to people when leading individuals and teams. My greatest learning from the course was how important it is to step outside of your comfort zone, challenging yourself to be a better person.

Whilst studying for my diploma, I started to write stories for my three year old son, Otis. I have always enjoyed writing, but never thought to take it on as a career. After sharing the stories in blog form with friends and family, I quickly realised that I had found a passion and after great feedback when reading to school assemblies of 400 children, I decided that I wanted to write children’s stories full time.

I wanted to create stories which the family could all enjoy when the children were older, creating that magic that I experienced as a child when watching films like Mary Poppins and reading books by Roald Dahl. My favourite times with my children are at bedtime when we are reading stories together and the thought of parents reading my stories to their own children is so lovely. So I took that scary leap of faith. It was one of the biggest career decisions I have ever had to make, but it felt right. I had my wife’s backing and support, which was the most important thing.

Fast-forward a few months and I have committed to writing full time. I launched our own publishing company, Lemon Drop Books, and now a year on we have published our fourth book: Thea Lemon and her Super Sporty Fairy Godmother.

In July 2016, our debut children’s book, Otis Lemon & The Spectacular Submarine, was awarded the Platinum Junior Design Award 2016 as the Children’s book of the year (with words and within last 12 months category). The awards, organised by Junior Magazine, recognise the finest modern toys and books. The Platinum Award is the highest accolade possible and is reserved for those products that go above and beyond the high judging standards and showcase immaculate design. Winning the Junior Design Award gave me reassurance that my decision to leave my previous job to become an author was the right choice to make.

I am extremely passionate about inspiring our children to read. As a parent myself, I completely understand that it can be tricky to engage with your child when trying to read with them. If your child is studying particular subjects at school, discuss with them what specific parts of the subject they most enjoyed. Once you have pinpointed what engaged them most, start to look for books and reading material together; this way your child should start to read for enjoyment, instead of it feeling like an after school chore. Another way of engaging with children is to simply get them to story build their very own adventure. What characters would they have? Where would the story be based? What would they like the message to be in the story? Make it fun, use colours, pens and pencils. These are just some of my own personal ideas, but you might have some of your own, as you know your child best. I personally enjoy reading biographies about interesting characters who have influenced many people; inspirational figures who inspire others.

When reading the above a lot has happened over the previous few years, but I have learned a lot of new skills: setting up a new business, completing a diploma in shopping Centre management and learning not to give up on your dreams. I truly take my hat off to anyone who takes that giant leap of faith to learn new skills and take on new challenges.


View our entire collection of learning stories on Storify:


How will sharing stories encourage people to learn in Bristol?

Sharing stories promotes understanding and brings people together.

In a neuroscience study, led by Uri Hasson in Princeton, a woman told a story to a group of listeners while their brains were monitored by MRI scans.  The results showed that the listeners experienced the exact same brain patterns as the storyteller.  The listeners developed empathy for the storyteller, because they were experiencing the story in the same way as the teller.

This means that when you tell a story to a friend, you can transfer your experiences, ideas, thoughts and emotions to them.  They feel what you feel.  What’s more, as you relate to someone’s desires through a story, they become your desires.

Sharing a learning story can bring a powerful force of change to those listening, encouraging them to go onto learn something new for themselves.

Share Your Learning Story!

We want to gather as many learning stories as possible from across the city and we would like to hear from you.

Your story might be based on an experience that made a difference to your life, it might be about one thing you learnt that set you on a specific course, or it might tell the story of your learning journey and demonstrate how what you learnt has impacted on your life.

Everyone’s learning story is important to us, so please help us by sending in your learning story below.

For ideas of how to create your learning story please download our top tips:


Submit Your Learning Story

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Your Learning Story*

We review all submissions carefully and we will get in touch if we’re able to publish your learning story.

If you have told your learning story in a different way such as by film, music or pictures please upload it onto our Facebook page or alternatively email it to: learning.city@bristol.gov.uk