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12th May 2020

We spoke to Stafford College's Course Leader for our Access to Higher Education (HE) course to find out more about her experiences before joining the College and her advice to anyone considering returning to education.

Q: Tell us about your background…

A: I got average GCSE grades and started A Levels but left after 1 year as I had no real idea of what I would like to study at university. As I had had a Saturday job in a hairdressers for a number of years, I started a Hairdressing Apprenticeship, but several years and a few more other jobs, including being a cashier and working in a bar, I later realised I wanted to study history and retook my A Levels and went to university. Midway through that degree, I knew I wanted to be a Librarian so then completed my Msc in Library & Information Studies to become qualified. I then went on to work for several local authorities in the South East for a number of years, and in 2003, relocated back to the Midlands and managed first the Schools Library Service for Staffordshire County Council, and then the Children’s and Schools Library Services for Shropshire County Council. During those years I was selected to represent my local authority on the regional committee of the Youth Libraries Group, which was a big deal for children’s librarians. From there I joined the national committee and judged the Carnegie and Kate Greenaway Medals, and edited the Youth Library Review - the pinnacle of my career as a children's librarian. The opportunity was both exciting and terrifying; the reality was a mix of chasing people to meet deadlines, and opportunities to attend key events and meet my heroes.

Although I am no longer working in libraries, I’m still passionate about helping our adult students find their way into reading and use many of the skills I learnt through the Youth Libraries Group to do that.

Q: How did you get into education?

A: When austerity measures were first introduced, one of the first services hit were public library services and I couldn’t bear the impact of the cuts on the staff and the service, so I thought about what else I might do. For years I had been setting up and delivering family learning classes in libraries and schools so I looked into teaching qualifications and applied to Stafford College. I completed the PTTLS qualification, and then the DTLLS course, with additional literacy. In the process, I gained more experience and began teaching adult literacy classes and the Functional Skills English at the College.

Q: What was your first qualified job in education?

A: I was asked to take on some teaching on the Access to HE courses and began teaching one History module to one group initially, and the rest is history! I now teach History, Language and Literature, study skills, introductory Psychology and Sociology and GCSE English, all to adults on the Pre-Access and Access courses at Stafford College.

Q: What kind of job roles have your previous students gone on to do?

A: As I am the Personal Tutor to both Humanities and Health students, and Curriculum Leader for all Access courses at Stafford College, the range of degrees and careers that my previous students have progressed to is extremely varied – ranging from Accountancy to Art History, Classics to Business Management, Mental Health Nursing to Philosophy, Psychology to Teaching, Social Work to Physiotherapy, Linguistics to Midwifery - a truly inspiring range of careers and areas of study!

Q: What challenges have you faced in your career and how have you overcome them?

A: Having sought to escape the impact of austerity on the library service, I soon realised that education was not immune to the pressures caused by reduced funding and staffing levels. For me, the key has been knowing when to ask for help or advice.

Q: What do you love most about the work that you do?

A: Seeing the difference it can make to an adult who hated school or who was told they weren’t a strong student, to come back to education and prove to themselves and others that they ARE capable and they can change their career path and improve their life chances, and those of their families.

Q: What advice would you give someone considering doing an Access course?

A: Go for it! Do your homework – be sure that you are in a position to be able to give it your all, because it will be demanding, but remember that this time you have chosen to be in education, so it won’t be the same as it was at school. Yes, it may be a little nerve wracking to start, but you will be with other adults who have all made the same decision and you will be supported by a team of incredibly knowledgeable and experienced staff who have a proven track record of enabling adults to progress to their chosen careers.

Q: What do you enjoy most about working at the College?

A: The people. Staff and students who commit everything to supporting each other to achieve outstanding results.

Find out more about our Access to HE course...

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