Guest Post- Anne Patch on her experiences of being a student parent

Looking back, studying for my degree as a mother of two doesn’t seem like a struggle but yes, I think it was at the time. My daughter was 12 when I started and my son had left home. I also had two part-time jobs, and money was incredibly tight. The only way I could complete all the work was to stay up and work through the night one night a week. 

At first I was worried about the effect it might have on my daughter but I don’t think it had any detrimental effect. She didn’t seem to mind living on pizza at exam time. Actually it seemed to motivate both my children. I was the first person in my family to go to university. My daughter realised what can be achieved through sheer hard work and my son decided to go off to university to get a degree, in furniture design. My daughter has now been studying at university for nine years now, first for a BA in English, then an MA in Criminology and now Psychotherapy. She’s hoping to continue that at the Tavistock in London.

I think aspiration is a good thing for children to experience and see in their parents. Not that I’m that aspirational. I left school at the age of 16 with five ‘O’ levels. I would have liked to stay on to do A levels and was encouraged by the school to do this but the situation at home made this impossible – my father thought I should leave school and go and work in a shop. So I went to work in Boots doing various jobs there until I was pregnant with my first child.

However, I’d always dreamt of going to university – and I wanted to see if I could do it; if I was clever enough I suppose. Because I didn’t have ‘A’ levels I had  to do an ‘Access’ course first and went straight in to University from there. The lecturers on the Access course were very encouraging. If they hadn’t been I probably wouldn’t have done it at all – I’d have chickened out!

I did a three year full-time combined honours degree in English and Sociology and got a 2.1 at the end of it – which surprised me – I was expecting a third. I’d like to go back to do a Masters now – and possibly a doctorate after that but I’m not sure how possible that would be. I love learning and I loved being at University. I suppose I’d like to reprise that time.

I had loads of support – fellow students who became friends, particularly those fellow mature students I had done the access course with – and parents of my daughters’  friends who picked her up from school when I had a late seminar. The University was supportive too, allowing students with children to alter seminar times if possible, to fit in with school hours. Without that, it would have been much, much harder. I was at university when grants were still available and there were no fees to pay. I wouldn’t be able to study these days under the same circumstances, it would have been impossible to fund it.

The University was there with emotional support also. A close friend died of cancer during my second year exam time which I found difficult to cope with and wouldn’t have coped at all I don’t think without the university’s counselling service. I  was even able to postpone one exam (Margaret had died the evening before, in great distress) until the following year.

I would definitely recommend other parents to go back into education. When I was studying I felt I was achieving something in my life at last. I was happy and everything is easier when you are happy.

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