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Pete's story

We live in Hornchurch and we’ve got four children aged 10, 8, 6 and 3 so life is quite full on, being divided between studying, working and home. It takes a lot of organising to keep things moving, get the children ready to go out to school and keep the household running. What I have found toughest is when you have to study at home and there are so many things going on, like trying to get the children to sleep.

We drop the children off to a childminder who takes them to school and picks them up again. That happens four days a week – on one day a week Kate’s mum is able to help us out. We’re paying around £165 a week now, which I think is good value. At one point a few years ago we were spending £1600 a month on childcare. That was a private nursery. Now we have found that state nurseries are just as good, and we get some state funding for pre-school.

Sometimes I do feel I have missed part of my children’s growing up. You miss some of the things that are happening at school, and that can be hard at times. But we both understand that you have to sacrifice some things if you want to combine working and studying with having children. When I left school it was a tough time for me at home, my parents were splitting up. In my head I always used to think “I’ve let it go, and there’s nothing I can do about it.” When I reflect back, it was my own fault I wasn’t at school. But when you are young you don’t listen to adults.

Since I left school I have worked my way up in my job, and the experience has been great. But not having continued with my education is something that has always played on my mind. I thought that I’d failed myself – but now, thanks to the UEL’s New Beginnings course, I have the chance to do it. I am also re-taking two of my GCSEs later this year – maths and science.

New Beginnings course

I can’t speak highly enough of UEL’s New Beginnings Course. I had been out of education for quite a while – I left school when I was 16 and began working in the printing industry. The course really helped me get back into lectures and academic writing and it was a major factor in helping me move on to a degree course later in the year. It is such a help, I think they should make it more widely available to young students to help them prepare for the shift from school to university.

I was lucky because the department where I work at UEL has been really encouraging and gave me a full waiver on the fees, which are £9000 a year for the three-year degree. They have given me time to go to lectures and seminars. If I need to catch up with work I will stay late to finish projects, so there’s give and take.

The New Beginnings course lasts 12 weeks, and it costs £250. I think that is great value. It is geared up to be as close to doing a degree as possible – you learn about the academic approach, you have lectures, group presentations and clear deadlines.

You have to do two assignments – one is reflective, another is on a given topic. Our question was on theories of learning. It’s not easy. But I have realised even more how helpful that it was since I have been doing my degree. I finished the course in August, and by the following month I was preparing to start my degree. I felt like the course had given me a great start. We had around 100 people on our New Beginnings course. A lot of the people were like me – mature students who had been out of education for a while.

The course is a great opportunity. I am told that people who do it are more likely to get a 2:1. The people running the course at in the Information, Advice and Guidance team answered all our questions and they were great with advice.


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