The Step Up to Higher Education course is designed for students wanting to return to education and develop the academic skills – writing, referencing and critical thinking – needed for university level study.
Nearly 50 students recently graduated from the 10-week programme with many going on to start degrees at Staffordshire University this month. As Adult Learners Week is celebrated from September 19 to 25 across the country, a new cohort of students begin their Step Up journey with further intakes planned for January and April.
Hannah Booth, 34, from Meir Hay, is a single mum to three children and has spent the past decade caring for her disabled son. After completing Step Up, she is about begin a degree in BA (Hons) Working with Children, Young People and Families and ultimately hopes to become a social worker to support children from minority backgrounds.
She said: “When you’re a parent you don’t get time off and I’ve always put myself second but now my son has adequate care at school.
“I knew I had potential. I have life experience but was purely lacking in study skills and I came to an Open Day thinking that I would need to complete a foundation year. I had no idea that Step Up existed!
“Being on the course has improved my study skills, my IT skills and even my mental health. I’ve made new friends and now have a part of my life that’s just mine.”
Delivered throughout the year, the 10-week course gives students the opportunity to try taster sessions in various subjects with tutors providing guidance and support to help learners decide their next steps.
Hannah said: “I didn’t know what support was available. I’m eligible for the Disabled Student’s Allowance and also received a Discover Digital bursary for a laptop which will help immeasurably because we only have one computer at home that my son uses for school.
“I’m a little nervous but feel excited and can’t wait to get started with my degree! This is something that I completely and utterly want to do.”
After suffering with health issues including arthritis, Hannah had a gastric bypass operation in June while on the Step Up course and returned to her studies just three days later with support from her tutors. She has since lost five and a half stone.
Hannah added: “I don’t feel like the same person that I was 12 months ago. My whole life has changed! I’d recommend the Step Up to Higher Education course to anyone! It is purely down to the support of the tutors that I’ve done it.”
Since 2014, more than 360 people have progressed onto undergraduate degrees at Staffordshire University after completing the programme and many are now represented in careers including social workers, paramedics, teachers, engineers, and games designers.
Step Up has enjoyed significant success working with Stoke-on-Trent City Council and the North Staffs YMCA to identify people who can benefit from the course and it has recently been included in a University Best Practice White Paper as an example of how universities are playing a key role in levelling up and spreading opportunity.
Ashley Cotton, Step Up to Higher Education Programme Manager, said: “Step Up is a fantastic springboard and transition tool for prospective students of Staffordshire University to develop the core skills needed for higher education. We invariably help and teach a diverse range of learners including people who may never have thought of going to university before.
“I’ve had students start and be very nervous, not knowing what they wanted to do, not knowing whether they would be capable of degree level study; but they’ve really pushed themselves and acquired new skills that they can take forward with them to enable their future academic success.”
He added: “We’re really proud of all our Step Up learners who have completed the course this year and hope that their achievements might inspire others who are thinking about taking their first steps back into education”.
Discover more about the Step Up to Higher Education programme and how to apply or book your place at an Open Day.