Adult students overcome challenging year in pursuit of their dreams

21 August 2020 | College News

After an uncertain week in education, City College was delighted to inform students of their GCSE results on Thursday. 

Due to the controversy surrounding A Levels, it was unclear for much of the week whether there would be a delay to GCSE results, but after a series of announcements by the Government and Ofqual, the College was able to issue most students’ with their results. 

In addition to its younger students having another attempt at their maths and English GCSEs, the College supports a large number of adults who have returned to education later in life. Every student has their own reason for wanting to gain these essential qualifications, whether it is to progress to higher education, improve their job prospects or change career. 

Even during what you might call a “normal” year, studying alongside employment, running a home or caring for dependants can prove a juggling act, but for the 2019/20 GCSE cohort, COVID-19 has presented a whole different level of challenges. 

Nicole Short is one of those adults who has had a challenging year caring for two young children while retaking GCSEs in maths and biology. With aspirations of becoming a primary school teacher, it was essential for Nicole to achieve a 4 / 5 or above in both subjects. For Nicole – whose birthday coincided with results day – achieving grade 5s gave her even more reason to celebrate. 

Nicole, 27, said: “I am so happy with my results. Having got an E in both subjects last time, I am delighted to have improved. I was so nervous last night – I barely slept, but seeing those grades has been a fantastic birthday present.” 

About returning to education, Nicole said: “I have really enjoyed my return to education. While it has been challenging at times, the tutors have been very kind and understanding. I have two children under the age of 5 and I work part-time in the evenings, too, and finding the time to study wasn’t always easy, but I persevered. I’m genuinely quite surprised with the level of knowledge I now have, and I feel prepared for the next stage.”

Nicole, who now plans to study an Access to Higher Education course, said: “I can highly recommend City College Plymouth to any adults who, like me, are starting afresh when it comes to qualifications. I cannot fault any of the staff, who were always on hand and willing to help. I look forward to continuing my educational journey.”  

Also celebrating success is Roxana Rosculet, who was taking GCSEs in English and maths in addition to an Access to Higher Education Diploma. Originally from Romania, the 31-year-old now has a place to study psychology with sociology at the University of Plymouth in September. 

Roxana achieved an outstanding grade 9 in her English – the highest grade possible – and a grade 5 in maths, which she described as her nemesis whilst at school. 

About her grades, Roxana said: “I’m ecstatic with these grades, I’m over the moon. To achieve the top grade in English – I never expected that, and when I saw my grade 5 in maths, I was speechless.” 

Roxana, who studied foreign languages in Romania, said she had always found psychology fascinating and decided to apply for an Access course after attending an open day at the College, which was very informative.  

Roxana said: “It sounded really interesting and I liked that I could study for my GCSEs alongside this course. I enjoyed every part of my college experience. The Access team is amazing, so supportive; all of the staff at the College are, from the lecturing staff to the people working in the Admin Hub, everyone is so helpful.  

Roxana, a self-confessed mathsphobe, said she even enjoyed having to revisit her least favourite subject. Roxana said: “I really disliked maths at school: I did everything I could to avoid it, but I realised it would be helpful if I go on to postgraduate study. It was a different experience though – not only did I understand it, I actually enjoyed it. I looked forward to my maths session each week. 

“I really enjoyed English. Creative writing doesn’t feature much in the curriculum in Romania – it is more focused on critical analysis – and it was a real treat to do something so different. I think we were quite a shy group to begin with, but the lecturer worked really hard to build our confidence. She was also really good at getting everyone to engage with one another. 

“If you want to study in an environment that is supportive, then you don’t need to look any further than City College Plymouth.”

Also hoping to achieve 4 / 5 in English and maths was career-changer John Jones. It took John a long time to decide what he wanted to do with his life but after realising that engineering was the career for him, he attended an open day at City College, where he was advised to resit his maths and English GCSEs. 

John, 34, said: “I have my heart set on joining the Navy as a weapons engineer and it reached a now or never stage, so I decided to go for it. Whilst it isn’t essential to have grade 4 / 5 in order to join the Navy, I want to be able to progress quickly, and having better GCSEs will improve my prospects.”

Having achieved a 6 in English and a 5 in maths in his retakes, John can now look towards his new career and won’t need to worry that his GCSEs might hold him back.

John said: “I wanted a minimum of 5s so I am pleased with these results. I wasn’t really that interested in learning when I was a teenager and that took its toll on my results the first time round. It took a few years before I appreciated the value of these qualifications, so I am now extremely pleased to have them.  

“Whilst studying, I was working full-time and came to the College twice a week in the evenings, which I would look forward to all week. We were a very mixed group: some were teenagers, while others were in their late 40s, possibly their early 50s, but that variety made it even more interesting. The lecturers were also really great at interacting with all of the students, regardless of their age.” 

“If you feel unsure about returning to education, you needn’t be worried about feeling out of place. You will be among like-minded people, all of whom have the same goal as you.”

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