Marie is a proud single mother of two girls who have unknowingly taught her so much. Here she writes about what adult education meant for her.
I left school at 16 with unspectacular GCSE results and as much as I had enjoyed school, I certainly hadn’t begun to tap into my potential.
Fast forward two years and I was living with my baby in a dire flat, situated in a notorious area. The baby’s father was inconsistent in his involvement and I felt incredibly isolated.
Over the next ten years we moved house a further nine times. During that time, I worked in some part-time, insecure jobs and there were also periods of unemployment.
Although an unsettled period in my life, I always happy with whatever work I could find and found satisfaction in using my time well.
That said, I always knew I had more to offer. I couldn’t quite put my finger on it; I just knew that I had yet to find whatever it was that would capture my imagination.
I didn’t have to wait long as, quite fortuitously, I saw an Access to Higher Education course advertised locally. It offered the chance of post-16 qualifications to those who didn’t follow the conventional route after leaving school. The course was built around school hours and everything about its description excited me.
So used to being told by certain people that I “wouldn’t stick anything out”, I deliberately only told one person about my enrolment. I started the nine month course with a knotted stomach, daunted not so much by thought of academic work, but by the sea of faces I knew would greet me in that first tutorial. Of course, I had overlooked that we were ALL newcomers to the course; we were all very nervous and worried. Many were single parents, some were retired, and others just wanted the challenge of studying in adulthood. Whatever our reasons, we all shared the same vision – to succeed.
I passed the Access course which I credit with turning my life around. This may sound overblown but it really did. During those nine months I found myself planning and delivering presentations to a group of ten or more people. I wrote essays, I learned to write personal statements. The list goes on. All would previously have been unthinkable to me due to my lack of confidence. But tutors and peers alike helped me to recognise my unique set of skills and that gave me such confidence.
Within a few months of the Access course ending, I enrolled on my Open University degree. Again, the experience of studying with the Open University has been life-changing. As well as studying topics that I am passionate about, it has allowed me to learn technical things like PowerPoint presentations, and how to operate a Dictaphone while conducting an independent research project.
I completed my Honours degree in 2018 and my certificate has pride of place, sitting alongside framed photos of my daughters.
It is my proudest achievement as a single parent as it represents so much that is important to me. I have always wanted to be a positive role model for my daughters and my qualification represents my commitment to this. It represents the hours I spent reading and note taking late at night, desperately wanting to accomplish something that we could all be proud of, and that would ultimately help to improve our lifestyle.
Most people reading this will agree that single parenthood requires strength, energy and resourcefulness. But I would encourage those same people to not forget about their own goals or dreams. However big or small your ambitions, your children will provide you with all the motivation and encouragement you need. So dig deep and do all you can to take that first small, albeit scary, step towards your future.