The East Riding College column with learning support advisor Kirsty Young: A second chance at education

I am writing this week’s column to share my personal story, which highlights the inequalities which many in our town face.

Monday, 2nd November 2020, 7:50 am
East Riding College’s St Mary’s Walk campus.

I have turned my life around thanks to the support and belief of the staff at our local college, and anyone could do the same with the right help.

I would never have believed when I ran away from home after leaving school that I would end up working at a college and have been accepted on teacher training.

As a teenager I was groomed, suffered domestic violence and became a parent at a very young age.

I went on to have three children by the age of 19 and, after being rescued from my situation by a local priest, I was a single mum for many years.

I was encouraged to speak to the guidance team at the college and started studying Health and Social Care.

I worked my way through the levels and was encouraged to apply for university, which I never thought possible.

I went on to get a degree and work in child protection.

I now work part-time at East Riding College as a learning support advisor.

I told my story to the Social Mobility Commission recently, who published it in a report called “The Long Shadow of Deprivation: Differences in Opportunity across England”.

The report highlights that inequality in educational outcomes is directly related to economic deprivation and that inequality persists after people have left education, with children from poorer backgrounds in general earning less than their peers with the same qualifications.

In other words, poverty persists, and where you grow up matters.

Social inequality is very hard to overcome – education, the report concludes, is only part of the answer.

I was lucky that my local college helped and supported me to get where I am today and I was also lucky that they put me forward for a bursary for students from disadvantaged backgrounds, which was offered by the Helena Kennedy Foundation.

The charity went on to support me enormously, providing bursaries and other help whilst I was at university.

Baroness Kennedy set up the Foundation to fight injustice and help disadvantaged people from troubled backgrounds access higher education.

I hope to give something back to the charity by using my story to give others hope and illustrate how important it is to ask for help.

I can’t emphasise enough how important those key points were in my life, when things could have gone so differently.

If that priest hadn’t understood my situation and helped me out of it, if my guidance officer at the college hadn’t been patient, and kind, and understood my lack of social skills, if my tutors hadn’t spotted my potential… I can honestly say I wouldn’t be where I am today and I am so thankful that those people were there for me at those moments.

If you would like, or know anyone who needs, a second chance at education get in touch with guidance services at East Riding College in Bridlington – they want to help people succeed, you won’t regret it!