Wow, it’s sure been a while since I have been on the blog!
Things have been…well…difficult. A family update blog will be coming in the next week whilst I get back on top of things.
Today I wanted to share with you my recent college experience. Here goes…
On the 14th of December I saw an advertisement about available college courses starting in January. This was something new to me as I thought they only ran from September. I’ve never really been interested in learning, it was all about starting at the bottom, working my way up and getting as money as I could.
Well, that was before I had my children aged 5 & 4. Now, I want to change the world, I want to help and support people, make it a better place for my children and their children, raise awareness, push for acceptance. I want to help support people like myself that are going along paths I have already been down.
I’ve worked since I left college aged 17, half way through my AS levels. I may have started at the bottom but I worked my way up and I bettered myself with every passing moment to be the very best at what I did. I don’t believe in half doing a job and I always provided excellent customer service managing their expectations. I loved a problem, getting involved and working out what went wrong and solving issues. I had my organisation skills down to a ‘T’ I could prioritise the tasks in hand and simply get the job done. I was good at what I did and will be good at whatever I choose to do in the future, I’m confident about that.
When I had my first born, like every Mother out there my life completely changed. I completely changed. Having a child that would be later diagnosed with a rare disease (1 in 250,000 chance), Autism, Dyspraxia, Sensory processing disorder amongst other things was the last thing on my mind.
I don’t have any family members with a disability therefore this hit me hard, straight in the face and I had no knowledge whatsoever ever about how to deal with this. It’s not a subject you’re taught about, knowledge and awareness is so limited these days.
My Son who now, after a really shitty start in life has finally transitioned into a caring and nurturing school who I completely (I can’t believe I’m saying this – but it’s true) 100% trust with my non-verbal 5 year old who has no means of communication other than by taking your hand to what he wants and then you having to play the guessing game.
Anyone working may think ‘wow, easy life’ you don’t work, you get money and your Son is at school! ‘WRONG’, you couldn’t be anymore wrong. When I worked, I longed for my days off. Now all I want to do is work! I miss the social interaction. Not the nights out, the parties etc. I’m talking about the simple ‘morning, how are you’, adult conversation, that kind of interaction.
Other than being bossed around by my 4 year old, who completely owns me. Or talking to my 5 year old with Autism who ignores me and is unable to respond I don’t really speak to anyone.I’m up every night without fail. Usually between 2am and 4am. You can bet your bottom dollar Riley will have me up where he’s laughing his head off about God knows what or bouncing on his bed like it’s flipping fun hour at your local indoor play centre. Or miraculously he will sleep through but I will still routinely wake up out of habit, to check why he’s not awake!
Thinking back, life has been ever so challenging since Riley’s birth (even the birth was difficult) There have been so many obstacles and obstructions in our lives. In a way I’m grateful to have experienced all of this because it has made me grow a thicker skin and taught me many new things I didn’t know.
I want to work! I could possibly get my job back at Carphone Warehouse I worked there for almost 9 years before having to hand in my notice to care for Riley full time (My previous job was SAGA I was there for 6 years) I’m a loyal, committed kind of person who’s in for the long haul.
But I don’t just want any job. I want to make a difference, I want to help people. It would appear in order to get that type of job role I will need to obtain an A-C GCSE grade in Maths. There have been 2 jobs recently that I really set my heart on but I was unsuccessful because I don’t have a A-C grade in Maths (hence my reason for choosing to go back to college)
I had a little nose on the college website and after some time thinking about whether or not I could commit and succeed at this course at this particular moment in my life. I took a leap of faith and emailed about joining an 18 week intensive Maths GCSE course. I got a DD grade, wahh!!
I received an email response shortly the same day with information about attending an initial assesment.
I attended the assesment on the 7th January 2019. I couldn’t believe how nerve racking it felt walking back into education. This was a huge step into the unknown for me, I felt vulnerable. I was looking for support, motivation, guidance, a chance to finally work towards and pursue a career for myself.
As a child/ young adult I did everything in my power to rebel whilst in education. I hated school and everything about it! Making this choice didn’t come lightly and that’s not even taking into account my main responsibilities – my children.
If you read my blog and follow my social media @clareleexo you will know about my family and I , if not, come on catch up! 😊
Here’s one of my most recent battles for my Son – click here to read
Everyday feels like a battle. I’m in constant fight mode, my wall is up, ready to challenge anything/ anyone that stands in the way of my children/ us, their education, wellbeing, giving them the best start in life, their future and well just life in general. I think this is because of the rough ride it’s been for us these past, almost 6 years. But I didn’t think I’d be fighting a battle for education for myself.
I felt the assesment could have been a little more personal. Perhaps a 15 minute slot with my tutor 1-1. Instead I was sat in a classroom uncomfortable, too hot, too flustered and nervous with about a million questions that I wanted to ask but I felt the awkwardness each time I broke the silence. Baring in mind I’d tried to contact my tutor a handful of times before the assesment but got no joy.
I completed a Math’s test paper the same day. I wasn’t at all prepared for this, I should have guessed It would have be required to see what level I was. I hate guessing games, I kind of feel this should have been mentioned in the 1st email with the date for the assesment day so I could have prepared myself.On Saturday the 12th January 2019 6.43pm I received an email from what would have been my tutor with my test results. He also advised that because I couldn’t attend the whole day I would be better suited to the 1 year course which starts in September (8 months away)
The course I applied for runs one day a week 9.30-4pm for 18 weeks. This is right up my street, intense & fast paced. This is everything I signed up for, I knew what I was in for, for the next 18 weeks and it would set me up ready to start the next course come September.
I would have to leave at 2pm to get back to my car to collect my daughter from school. Putting Summer into after school club could have been an option but I would still need to leave by 3pm to be home for Riley when he gets off the bus. This would however disrupt Riley’s evening routine because the moment he got off the bus (after being on it for over an hour) I would have to put him in the car and drive to collect Summer from school, dinner would be later, everything would be out of sync. It’s a bit unfair for a non-verbal 5 year after leaving the house at 8am for school!?
I explained that I completely understood their concerns but it was my choice and preference to continue my place on this course. I made it clear that I was/am committed, willing to put in the hard work at home and mentioned how my Brother who is at Bristol University doing a computer science degree has offered to help tutor me via Skype. I explained my home circumstances in brief and said that I wouldn’t set myself up to fail.
If you click the icon below it will take you to the colleges student admissions policy where they claim to offer fair and flexible treatment. Nothing in stage 3 ‘procedures’ section states you must attend every session. Whilst it goes without saying it’s a no brainier to attend every lesson, sometimes this isn’t possible but there is nothing in black and white to say you will be refused a place (like myself)Despite there not being a ‘discrimination’ policy there is a short 3 sentence definition of what discrimination is under ‘Equality and diversity’
Section 3 – Meeting the needs of students. Well, I’m not even going to entertain this as I think I have wasted enough of my valuable time and energy as it is. It is clear to me this is something we would want to read/ hear not necessarily a policy followed. I have not found the college to be supportive, flexible or fair, which are just a few words used in their policy.
I replied to the email the same day 12th Jan, almost immediately. I received nothing over the weekend. I sent another follow up email on Monday the 14th asking if he could kindly confirm my place on the course.
Tuesday 3pm (the night before the course is due to begin) I received a reply saying that I’ve not been accepted on the course because I’m unable to fully attended. Obviously I’m furious! Yet another battle, one of my own this time.
I reached out to my social worker, not really her area of expertise but she has a good understanding about my family and I and she knew how much I wanted to do this course. She was surprised and said that I should challenge this.
I phoned the college the same day (Tuesday) I was on hold driving my daughter home from school and all though-out multitasking, making dinner and waiting for Riley to get home which impacted on my quality time spent with my children that afternoon.
Finally the call was answered after over 20 minutes hold time to be instantly cut off. I’m guessing it was home time because when I phoned back there was an option to leave a voice message, which of course I did requesting for the college principal to phone me directly to discuss this matter.
I spoke to (I think) the principles secretary. She took down my query and said she’d pass on my message and see what she could do. I spent Tuesday evening completely stressed out. I didn’t realise how much I’d built myself up for this course and how much of an impact not getting a place would have on me.
I didn’t hear anything Monday morning so I did the school run as usual and decided I would go to the college as planned (if I’d gotten a place) to appeal this decision directly face to face.
On my way I phoned my family liaison for some advice about how to approach this and whether or not she thought I was being unreasonable. She too felt that the college could have been more understanding and accepting due to my circumstances especially as I have explained I’m willing to put in the revision at home.
I got to the college and joined the long queue to be told you’ve been rejected, that’s that and you’ll receive a letter in the post. I said that I didn’t wish/ need to wait for a letter to tell me I’ve been rejected a place on the course as I’m aware of this and would like to speak to someone about appealing. It was 9.15am and the course started at 9.30am I didn’t want to miss anything and surly I was showing my commitment that very moment.
The receptionist made a phone call and confirmed the principle could see me at 11am. That mean an hour and 30 mins of waiting around. An hour and 30 mins of missing the first part of the course! I said that I would come back and I left.I power walked back to the car with frustration. I drove to the citizens advice bureau for some more advice. They seemed very surprised that the college weren’t helping to better accommodate me and couldn’t believe it was such an issue if I was willing to put in the hard work at home. They also mentioned that it could well be because of their attendance figures rather than the more important factor of helping me to better my education. They took my details and are contacting me over the next few days to discuss the out come of my meeting with the principle.
I then drove to the Job Centre. I have regular visit’s here because I’m Riley’s carer and they offer me support and advice. Ironically my last meeting involved a conversation about getting back into education and would this be an option if I have time. Anyway I visited on the off chance I could see my advisor however he was off. I spoke to another lady for some advice on the matter and just like the other 3 professionals I have reached out to she too was surprised and felt the college could be more accommodating and even dropped the ‘d’ word…discrimination!!
I headed back to the college for my meeting. I arrived at 10.30am, I headed over to the the ‘student advice’ area (because I was early)
I asked for information on the college policies, what their mission statement is and what materials they have on their discrimination policy. The chap was really helpful and approachable he printed some bits off for me and I read through these and highlighted bits whilst I waited.
At a punctual 11.10am (not) a lady came to take me up to the principles office. The principle shook my hand and allowed me to explain myself and briefly share my situation. I couldn’t have shown how much I wanted to get on this course or my commitment anymore if I tried. I felt so passionate about this and emotional to have to fight and justify why I should be allowed to do this course, I even shed a few tears.
After a good 20 minutes of what felt like me trying to sell myself the principle said that she wouldn’t be changing her mind about offering me a place on the course. I asked ‘what difference it would make to her life about allowing me a space or is it due to the importance of hitting those weekly/ monthly attendance figures/ targets. She replied that she’s had many people in the past like me, an adult wanting to return back to education but cannot 100% commit, they fall behind, get depressed and then don’t pass the course.
Erm…that’s not me! I asked why she was tarnishing me with the same brush as past experiences because I am not them, I completely knew what a challenge it was going to be. She then moved on to say about attendance, I challenged the fact that I doubt there wouldn’t be a single illness though out the 18 week course by other students.
I mentioned that I have reached out for advice from professionals. She repeated the fact that she wasn’t going to change her mind and that there are other places I can study. Also that there were certain courses I could attended that didn’t require an A-C grade in Maths.
When I felt the conversation had burnt out and I’d heard for the 3rd and final time that the principle wasn’t going to change her decision of refusing me a place I said that I would be taking this to social media as I’m a blogger and I wished to have the name of the person above her.
She said that I would need to write a letter of complaint to her, she would reply and then give me those details. I said that I’m not writing a letter to you as we are having this conversation now and that I would like details of the person above as I feel this is extremely unfair treatment.
Overall I’m feeling totally let down and discouraged from this whole experience. I feel as though I opened myself up and got a kick in the teeth back. I’m eligible to apply for this course, the college would receive the correct funding and I think the choice should ultimately be mine, because if I don’t pass then it will be only myself I let down.Around 6 years ago I attended a 2 year hairdressing evening course at this same college. The first year was diabolical with the tutor pretty much AWOL every lesson that they refunded me my money. The second year wasn’t much better. I learned most haircuts for the first time in the actual exam I was being assessed on for the overall qualification.
I am a ‘ qualified’ hairdresser on paper but in all honesty I couldn’t cut someone’s hair if I tired. What does that say about support and setting you up for future, what a waste of my time and money! I vowed then to never return back to this college.
Here I am 6 years on and this! What do you think? Am I being unreasonable to push this? Leave me a comment below or you can contact me via any of the following – Click here
Ps, I now have no idea what I’m going to do or what direction I’m going to go in!