Access to HE Michael Sargent Bursary Award Winners

We are delighted to announce the winners of our annual Michael Sargent Bursary Awards.  The awards were presented at our ‘Celebrating Success and Supporting Access to HE for the Future’ event on 28th November 2018 in support of World Access to Higher Education Day. 

Michael Sargent Bursary Award Winners 2018


Winner - Kirsten Stirrat

Access to HE Diploma in Nursing at the College of Haringey, Enfield and North East London

Now studying Adult Nursing at City University.

Kirsten joined the Access to Nursing course with doubts about her ability to achieve the required standard after so long out of education.  But, from the first day on the programme, she showed incredible motivation and commitment with a fierce determination to succeed. This translated into work of the highest quality. 

Kirsten showed the ability to adapt her academic style to a variety of formats and styles, from factual to discursive.  Each of her assignments demonstrated a level of understanding and an ability to apply that understanding effectively, not only to the requirements of the assignment, but also to her future role as a nurse.  In the mental health assignment, for instance, Kirsten showed insight and sensitivity to the issues raised, demonstrating excellence in both objective and discursive academic writing styles. 

Kirsten achieved a Distinction in every graded assignment and her ungraded work was of an equally high standard. At final moderation, her work and the presentation of her portfolio was referred to as ‘perfect’. The tariff set by City University for the Adult Nursing course was 24 credits at Distinction. Kirsten almost doubled this with 45 credits at Distinction. 

Tutor Christine Peck said: “Kirsten successfully balanced the demands of work, home, and bringing up a young family whilst studying at college, like many Access to HE learners.  Her time management was excellent. She utilised every opportunity to study so that she could not only achieve the results she wanted, but also so that she could feel confident in progressing to study nursing at university. She truly has shown outstanding academic achievement throughout her time at the College, has been a joy to teach and deserves every success in the future. “

Kirsten Stirrat says: “Access has opened a door for me to a more enriched, meaningful and fulfilled life for myself and my family. Without the dedication from those who created, support and work continually to deliver Access I would not have had the opportunity to achieve my goal of studying Nursing at University. I look forward to contributing meaningfully to a society which has supported me during some very difficult times, by being an advocate for those in need and by supporting others through vulnerable moments in their lives during my nursing career.”

Runner up - Ruaridh MacDermot

Access to HE Diploma in Teacher Training at Kingston College

Now studying Primary Education at Durham University.

Early educational experiences were a major factor in Ruaridh’s decision to become a teacher. After being refused entry to his school’s sixth form (he achieved just one grade lower than was required) he became disillusioned with education and was very unhappy at an alternative school which was far away from home. But there were other issues he had to deal with. His mother’s long-term alcoholism, diminished mental capacity and periods of hospitalisation for bleeds on the brain meant that his desire to be close to his mother was a major factor in his abandonment of his A Level studies. He took time out from education to work in a Michelin-starred restaurant and taught children in China – an experience where he learned innovative ways of bridging the communication gap.

Ruaridh tentatively enrolled on the Access to Teacher Training course at Kingston College with modest expectations but left with distinctions in 42 out of his 45 graded units. That achievement is all the more commendable because he had to deal with his mother’s subsequent dementia and the death of his grandmother. Both of these significant events could have destabilised others, but he persevered. Ruaridh’s contributions during the course drew on his experiences abroad, his extensive reading and passionate engagement with fellow students.  He constantly used staff feedback to inform his planning and refine his academic style and was never complacent about his academic ability.

Tutor Sue Brahams said: “To get through the intensity and rigour of an Access course is a milestone in itself. To do so achieving Distinctions from the outset is a remarkable achievement. We are extremely proud that Ruaridh impressed the admissions tutors at Durham University with his academic prowess, empathy and modesty and feel confident that he is well on his way to achieving the career to which he is so eminently suited.”

Ruaridh said: “As a mature student I thought I had missed my slot. But on the Access course I soon gained momentum and realised that high grades were achievable. I fell into a routine and managed to separate work, home and studying. The Access course prepared me well for university as it followed similar academic processes.”


Winner - Bernadette Lyons

Access to HE Diploma in Teacher Training at Kingston College

Now studying Primary Education at St. Mary’s University.

When Berni was interviewed for her place on the Access to Teacher Training Course, she was already running a taxi business and, as a single mother, needed   to continue working to support her family of three children. On top of that she had none of the GCSEs needed to qualify for a place at university.

“Too much in one year”, thought her tutor Sue Brahams. But persuaded by her level-headedness, determination and confidence in her own resolve, the college tentatively agreed that she could ‘give it a go’, inwardly wondering whether she might have to adjust her aspirations once the workload kicked in.

The immensity of Berni’s undertaking cannot be underestimated. Coping with GCSEs in English, maths and double science along with voluntary work, looking after three children (plus dogs, horses and cats), running a business and dealing with the rigours of the Access to Teacher Training Diploma, could have forced her to give up. But Berni maintained the momentum of her considerable educational journey from the beginning to the end of the course, achieving predominantly Merit profiles in her Access Diploma and secure passes in her four GCSEs.

The fact that she was a late starter and suffered trauma at home, makes her journey all the more poignant. Throughout her adult life Berni battled the effects of a childhood abuse, crippling shyness and PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) which meant school days were spent battling the world rather than learning. After a career working with horses, she lived in France for 12 years and taught English as a foreign language, which sparked her interest in teaching.

Tutor Sue Brahams said: “There is no doubt that when Berni arrived at college she lacked confidence and significantly underestimated her ability. But in reality, there was rarely a moment when she did not seem in control of her immense array of commitments and diverse priorities. Berni’s journey is inspirational, showing the transformative power of education.”

Berni said: “This course has opened a future to me that for a long time I believed impossible. The Access course has been life changing for me.  Not only has it given me the qualifications I need to be accepted at University, but it has given me the confidence to believe that I can achieve anything I put my mind to. Teaching has always been my vocation and now I finally can fulfil my dreams.”

Runner up - Zoe Ellis

Access to HE Diploma in Nursing at Ealing, Hammersmith and West London College

Gained a place to study Adult Nursing at Bucks New University.

Zoe was nominated for her outstanding commitment to completing her Access to Nursing course at Ealing, Hammersmith & West London College, in the face of difficult and challenging personal circumstances.

Zoe has suffered since early childhood with IgA deficiency and Von Willebrand’s disease. For those of you who are not familiar with these conditions, IgA deficiency reduces the effectiveness of the immune system thus increasing vulnerability to both common and more serious infections. Any surgery brings risks of infection and requires an unusually long recovery period in isolation. Von Willebrand’s disease reduces the effectiveness of blood clotting, amongst other things, and also complicates surgery.

As a result of these medical conditions, Zoe had a series of absences from College, mainly due to infections. Nonetheless she succeeded in completing her academic work. Then in March 2018 she was taken ill and required immediate surgery. She was away from College for 6 weeks in March and April during treatment and recovery, and then attended on one day each week until the beginning of May.

Despite these illnesses and absences, Zoe still managed to complete all her work in time to meet the deadline for the planned External Moderation visit. Although she had been advised that she would probably qualify for exceptional circumstances, she was determined to complete on time. Given the demands which completing Access places upon even healthy students, her successes given her persistent and serious health problems reflect an outstanding commitment to her goals.

Tutor Jonathan Gurney said: “Given the demands which completing Access places upon even healthy students, her successes given her persistent and serious health problems reflect an outstanding commitment to her goals.”

Zoe Ellis says: “Throughout this time I focused on my career in childcare and worked my way up the levels in childcare which I came to find very rewarding, but it was never what I truly wanted to do career wise.  After the birth of my son I decided not to go back to work but to focus on my first goal of becoming a nurse.  

I finally finished with grades I never thought I would, but met the grades needed for my first choice University’s conditional offer. My health has always held me back in life but after finishing this academic year with my final grades, I know I’ll be able to make it through to university.”

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