There are moments in life when someone gets a flash of inspiration that changes the course of their entire career. For 28-year-old Bradley Moon it happened when a bar came crashing down on his head in the back of his lorry.
Bradley had dreamed of becoming a doctor, but the odds were stacked heavily against him as he had left school at the age of 16 with no credible qualifications. So he went to work as a refuse collector and then gained his HGV licence to enable him to drive lorries. Bradley describes the work as low skilled and totally mind-numbing. He says: “I couldn’t even get promoted within the company because of my poor GCSEs". With no encouragement from family to redo GCSEs Bradley accepted that he would never amount to anything more than a lorry driver and so pursued that line of work.
Some people have a mentor that provides the catalyst for change. For Bradley it was a work colleague called Tony who took him on a tour of the Cambridge colleges. “I just fell in love with the place,” says Bradley. So he started to explore how he could get the qualifications needed to enter university. He discovered an OCN London Access to HE Diploma course in Medical and Biomedical Sciences at City and Islington College. After initially failing the diagnostic test in maths – hardly surprising as he had been out of the education system for 11 years - it seemed he had stumbled at the first hurdle. At this point Bradley nearly gave up, but it was his friend Tony who said: “You have to go for it.” Then two things happened at once. He received an email from the college inviting him to enrol on the pre-Access course and the bar in the lorry fell on his head. “I started seeing stars. It was clearly a sign,” he says.
Bradley then quit full-time work and started at City and Islington College on a pre-Access course. He had to continue driving lorries for 30 hours a week in order to provide an income whilst studying three days a week at college, but also managed to fit in work experience in a private residency for someone with a rare neurological disease. The toughest part was struggling with GCSE maths, particularly algebra. Perseverance paid off when his tutor said: “I have never seen anyone’s mind expand so quickly.” But Bradley adds: “Actually, beer helped as well.”
Bradley passed his GCSE in English (grade A), maths (grade B) and the pre-Access course, then progressed onto the OCN London Access Diploma in Medicine and Bio-Medical Sciences at City and Islington College which he passed with flying colours. Ironically, he received the results in a petrol garage whilst filling up the lorry. He was accepted for a BSc degree course in Biomedical Sciences at the University of Westminster, starting in September 2016. Gaining a place a medical school now was clearly going to be unrealistic, so Bradley’s strategy is to gain the degree first and then, hopefully, apply as a postgraduate student.
The journey has been a tough one. It has meant juggling lorry driving with studying and coping with nights where he had little sleep. Studying at university will cost him a loan of £65,000 over four years (including a year of work experience), then more if he applies for medical school. But for Bradley, it has clearly all been worth it as he exudes passion and enthusiasm for learning.
He says: “People said to me ‘At your age you probably shouldn’t bother’. But I’ve no regrets. I knew there was more to me that lorry driving. The learning experience has been life changing. I wouldn’t have had as much determination to succeed if I hadn’t done it the way I had. If you put in time and dedication then you can succeed.”