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Course opens doors for students of all ages

A new course at the City of Stoke-on-Trent Sixth Form College is giving students a second chance to go to university.

For mum-of-four Lucy Kirkham, from Uttoxeter, starting study on the Foundation Year psychology course at the Sixth Form College has given her a new group of friends and the chance to go back to study and university which she always wanted.

After years of domestic abuse, Lucy, aged 32, wanted to study psychology so she could understand better the effect that time has had on her and her family, and to hopefully begin a career in counselling so she can help others in the same position.

She said: “It was those experiences that led me to want to do psychology and counselling, as I found that when I was going through it although there was a lot of support available I didn’t get it when I needed it.

“Since then I ended up with ME and I had a stroke in 2009, the combination of which can leave me tired and with memory problems so I really wasn’t sure I’d be able to study.

“But as the children got older and I went to watch my partner get his degree, I thought ‘why aren’t I doing this?’ and it was now or never. I wanted to set an example to my children and not sit around at home.

“I tried an Open University course but just studying at home with a book didn’t work for me. I need to talk things through, and the support I’ve had from everyone at the Sixth Form College and the other students has been really good.

“If I’m struggling the staff have a wheelchair ready for me and I’ve been having memory skills sessions which really help, and if I need to work from home or have extra time to do the work then that’s fine.

“I’m loving it and the course content is fascinating, and when I finish I’ll go on to Staffordshire University to do a psychology degree.

“I’d always wanted to go to university but having left school before sitting my GCSEs to have my daughter meant it didn’t happen, but I’d say to anyone to go for it as you’ve nothing to lose.”

For fellow student Shay Alexander the story was different, as having just missed out on the points he needed to progress to university further study went on the back burner while he enjoyed working.

The 23-year-old, who is in student accommodation at Staffordshire University, said: “I didn’t get off to a good start at school as my mum died when I was 11 and it was only several years later that I settled down at school and started getting good grades.

“I always wanted to go to university, but when I didn’t get enough points I was offered a football coaching job and I really enjoyed that and obviously you get attached to the income.

“So it was tricky to come back to study and start writing essays which was why this course was perfect for me. It’s a stepping stone to get back into it all.

“Being a smaller building than the university also helps as it’s easier to navigate and with a smaller class we all really get on and there’s loads of support.

“One of my main concerns was that I would fit in as it’s a big step, but after my first day I felt comfortable.

“Having been out of education for a while, I didn’t want to be thrown in at the deep end. I wanted to practice and go into a university course feeling confident and this course is great as I can go straight onto one of the psychology degree courses at Staffordshire University.”

Course leader Angela Keane can understand her students’ anxiety, as she returned to education after redundancy and never looked back.

Now she enjoys supporting her students through their learning journey and is looking forward to watching them start their degree study.

Even though the course only began this year, 21 students enrolled with ages ranging from 18 to 48.

Angela said: “The course is going really well and there’s nothing better than seeing them come in with often low self-confidence and watching that build as the course goes on.

“We’ve got two camps of students, some who are fresh from doing their A-Levels but may not have got the points they needed whereas others have got the points but wanted to do an introduction to psychology year as they didn’t do it for A-Level.

“Other students had great grades at A Level but don’t have the confidence to match their ability and we have quite a few mature students who wanted to do a degree, but either weren’t ready because of their personal situation or just want a taster first because they’ve been out of study for a while.

“We make sure everyone feels supported, whether that’s walking them through how to do a PowerPoint presentation or other study skills they need to succeed.

“Assessments tend to be practical, such as carrying out their own research then analysing their results, and although the course is taught here they also have access to all the facilities next door at Staffordshire University including the university library, sport and social clubs and guest speakers.”

Anyone interested in studying at the City of Stoke-on-Trent Sixth Form College can come to their Open Event on February 8th 2017, or for more information log on to or call 01782 848736.

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