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Now she is not only on track for her ambition of becoming a primary school teacher, but at just 18 she has also landed herself a job as a teaching assistant while she studies.  

When it comes to choosing your next steps, knowing what you want to do in the future isn’t always as simple as it sounds.

For Olivia a career in children’s nursing had been the plan, but when it came down to choosing a university course, suddenly, she didn’t feel so certain.

“I had an interview coming up and I just really didn’t want to go,” she said.  But having the bravery to change direction, can often be its own challenge.

Fortunately for the 18-year-old from Hartlepool, she found the courage to voice her uncertainty.  Not ready to move away from home, she took the time to explore her options locally.

“Studying higher education in a college setting wasn’t something I had given much thought to before,” she said. “In fact, I didn’t really know anything about it.”

It was only after hearing about the Foundation Degree in Supporting Teaching and Learning at Stockton Riverside College, that Olivia suddenly found her direction.

A placement at a local primary school had opened her eyes to the possibility of teaching, and where previously she had felt doubts and uncertainty around her career choices, she was now brimming with enthusiasm.

“I always knew that I didn’t want to move away from home,” she said. So, for her, the part-time course offered an entry route that didn’t involve a lot of daily travel or the need to move away from home.  All of that would come as an added bonus when faced with the additional challenges brought about by the pandemic this year.

The course at Stockton Riverside College is built around a strong core of real work experience, so Olivia managed to secure herself a work placement at a primary school and when a job came up as a teaching assistant, she didn’t think twice about going for it.

Now she and her mum, Joanne, believe she gets the best of all worlds, a message they are quick to share with anyone thinking about their higher education choices.

Joanne said: “I know at one point I was feeling quite stressed, to see Olivia so stressed about what she was going to do next. It is so good to see her find the right path.”

As a key worker, Olivia is no doubt already earning her stripes and she is planning to top up her foundation degree to go on to become a newly qualified teacher.

Of studying at Stockton Riverside College, Olivia said: “It has been great as we have lessons, activities and workshops as well as that one-to-one support. You are not only learning from the teachers but also the other students on the course.

“There are people in the class who have been teaching assistants, or worked with children, for 10 years and even more. It is great to hear and learn from their experiences.”

Happy to see her daughter so settled and earning a wage while also studying, Joanne said: “This year, because of the pandemic, the first year of university will have been a completely different experience for many students.”

Olivia, on the other hand, has been able to make the most of a combination of remote and face-to-face learning delivered by the college; and financially, being close to home has saved them a bit too.

“For Olivia this has been ideal,” said Joanne. “Not only is she studying but she also has a job, getting paid to do what she loves, and in a few years, she’ll be fully qualified.”

Stockton Riverside College offers a variety of higher education courses delivered in partnership with Teesside University, as well as part-time, Access to Higher Education and professional courses.

The college is holding a higher education online open event tonight (Tuesday February 23, 2021) from 5.30pm to 7.30pm, offering the chance to hear from the college’s expert tutors, have your questions answered via a live chat and take a look at the full range of courses.

Visit www.stockton.ac.uk/higher-education to access the event and find out more about the opportunities available.

Olivia And Mum Joanne Olivia Woolston
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