Why school or college is not for everyone: week five: starring Sarah

Here we are at week five of this brand new series why school or college is not for everyone! It’s also the second last day of Blogtober! It’s so crazy how fast this month has gone! Today’s series is all about Sarah’s story! 

Let’s meet Sarah! 

Sarah Skilton is the owner of Adventure Accessories, created in 2017, a successful creative handmade business based in Carmarthenshire, South Wales. Combining a passion for adventure with a love of crafts, Adventure Accessories creates unique handcrafted, fun and functional, gifts for outdoor enthusiasts. You can follow Sarah on social media Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest.
school or college

I dropped out of A levels at 18, much to my parents’ despair.

I did do my degree in my forties because I chose to, not because I felt forced to as a teen. My eldest son was a straight ‘A’ student at GCSEs and A Levels. He is currently studying at university. My youngest son has missed most of his school life due to ill health. He even had a short period of home schooling. He is now 17 with just a Maths GCSE. I therefore have lots of perspective and insight on education and the how the current system in the UK does not suit everybody.

College Dropout

I didn’t much care for school. I really didn’t know what I wanted to do in life. I found school dull and uninteresting, repetitive and boring. I didn’t try hard enough in my GCSEs in year 10 and year 11. As a result, I did not achieve appropriate grades at C or above in the subjects I needed.

I realised too late in to year 11 that I should have tried harder and when I received my GCSE results I realised that I didn’t have very many choices available to me because of the poor grades.

I decided that my best option was to re-sit the year.

This was incredibly difficult going into the sixth form college, but I was attending lessons with year 11 pupils, so I had no friends, no peers with me.

I even had one teacher comment that she didn’t want a resit student in her class because I would hold the rest of the students back. It was grossly unfair. It was a difficult year.

I suppose because I didn’t have any friends I did therefore concentrate on my school work and worked hard to get better grades the following year which I did achieve so I then started A Levels but I was obviously still a year behind my peers so they were moving on and making plans to go to university when I’d only just started my A levels.

It was also obvious that this was going to be once again tough going and I found it isolating and lonely. As I said I didn’t know what I wanted to do in life, so I picked three A-level subjects that were broad options, but I wasn’t enjoying the work and eventually made the decision much to my parents’ despair to drop-out of college at the end of the Easter term of my first year.

This was back in the days when we could go to the Jobcentre to get help looking for work.

After the Easter break I went to the job centre where jobs were posted on little slips on the wall. I found one that I could apply for with my qualifications. An administrative assistant for customs and excise at Birmingham International Airport.

I applied for the job and got it, so I suddenly entered the world of work at the age of 18. A regular income while still living at home with my parents meant I had more money than the friends I had left behind that were doing A levels and going on to uni.

I didn’t miss the fact at all that I haven’t gone to university.

It didn’t affect me, I enjoyed work, I quickly made lots of new friends. I had financial freedom and really enjoyed working my way up through the grades to become an administrative officer and then a Customs officer at the cargo airport inspecting shipments.

I eventually moved on to other jobs as I got older and more experienced and worked for different companies and organisations. I was lucky enough when my children were born to decide to become a stay-at-home parent and raise my children as a home-maker as hubby was earning enough to allow me to do this.

At no point did I miss the fact that I had not gone to university.

 It didn’t affect my working in any way. It didn’t affect my ability to apply for jobs. Once we received the diagnosis that my youngest son was autistic I decided to retrain to be able to home school him as he wasn’t coping with mainstream education at the time. I did an NVQ course for teaching assistants to be able to home school him and better support his needs. Then we found a specialist the school to take him in to their unit that could cater for his additional needs. I decided to use the training I’d done and go into teaching assistant work having me NVQ helped me to get that job.

I did teaching assistant work for 10 years and it was through that that I decided I wanted to now go to university and do a degree in education. That was my choice I didn’t need to do it for my work, but I wanted to prove to myself that I could achieve a university degree. It wasn’t going to help further my career particularly, but I wanted to do the course as it was a subject that interested me.

It was four years of hard work.

I wouldn’t recommend anybody doing university as an adult whilst working full-time and trying to raise a family but being older gives you the maturity and the work ethic that you probably wouldn’t have as a teen/early 20s. I do not regret doing my degree and I am proud that I achieved a first-class honours. I don’t think I would have done that had I been 20 years younger and going to university as was expected at the end of school.

In contrast my eldest son was a straight ‘A’ student at GCSE and A-level and went on to do mechanical engineering at university. He is doing well, and academia suits him. My youngest son has missed most of his school life through ill health. First with autism and not fitting in to a mainstream educational setting and needing a specialist unit. Once we were able to get him settled he did well and was on track to achieve GCSEs with his peers but at the end of year 9 he received the devastating diagnosis of a very rare and aggressive lymphoma which resulted in him missing his GCSE years at school as he undergoes extensive treatment and lifesaving operations. He only attends school part-time now at a sixth form college but doing GCSEs, so a similar situation to I was in.

He is two years behind his peers with no friends and finding it quite difficult to manage due to the fatigue and illness and ongoing treatment.

What the future holds for him we do not know yet, but it proves that you can manage perfectly well in the world without the standard education that most achieve. I will say however that there are more opportunities available to you if you have GCSEs and A Levels and potentially a university degree. These give you different choices and different paths that you can take. My youngest has quite a narrow range and choice available to him but it is not impossible to still achieve financial security and job prospects. Just a different path.

Wow! Thank you Sarah for sharing your story and your sons’ story. Thank you for joining in on my series why school or college is not for everyone. 

Anne xx 

Don’t forget to check out other people’s stories who joined in on my why school or college is not for everyone HERE!

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