Clare SwiffenA mature student who left school with very few qualifications and chose to put her family first will graduate with a degree from Bishop Grosseteste University (BGU) at Lincoln Cathedral on Wednesday 19th July.

Clare Swiffen (38), from Helpringham near Sleaford, began her course in Education Studies and Special Educational Needs & Inclusion as a mature student, after commitments to family life prevented her from pursuing her career.

She attended Grantham College to study an Access to Nursing course before starting a BSc in Midwifery at the University of Nottingham in September 2012 – but things did not go as she had hoped.

“I was really excited to start my midwifery course in Nottingham, but unfortunately I had to leave in April 2013 as my daughter who had started school in the same September was really struggling both academically and socially,” said Clare.

Choosing to put her family first, Clare took a year out in the hope of returning to university the following April, but she continued to face more hurdles.

“The university wanted to base me at Mansfield and as a single parent at the time it just wasn’t feasible.

“I applied for 70 to 80 jobs but I only got one interview, and they wanted me to be able to work from 8am to 8pm which I couldn’t do because of childcare issues. All the other jobs I applied for I either didn’t hear from or I was told I was underqualified or over qualified. So, my only option was to undertake further study to open other job opportunities.”

After much debating Clare finally took the plunge to return to university and began the Education Studies and Special Educational Needs & Inclusion course at BGU in September 2014.

“The course has not only helped me as a parent with a child with special needs, but it’s also allowed me to gain a better understanding of the needs of disabled children,” she said.

“For me the biggest worry was the age difference to other students, but it’s never been an issue. I was dreading it but the whole experience exceeded my expectations and the support I’ve had from both the tutors and students has been amazing.

“My advice to anyone who is a bit older and is contemplating going to university is to just go for it! It was quite daunting taking that first step, but I’m glad I did because it’s opened up so many opportunities for me that I wouldn’t have had if I didn’t go through with it.”

After graduation, Clare will return to BGU to take her postgraduate PGCE teaching qualification as she hopes to become a special needs education co-ordinator.

Clare Swiffen will graduate at Lincoln Cathedral with a BA (Hons) degree in Education Studies and Special Educational Needs & Inclusion at 10.15am on Wednesday 19th July 2017.

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