Access to HE student scoops the UEA Snoo Wilson undergraduate prize

Growing up, Simone Chalkley had a clear understanding of the importance of education and the doors it could open, but a lack of direction and inadequate support from her educators saw her leave school with just a few GCSEs. Another attempt to gain further qualifications at Cambridge Regional College saw Simone achieve one further GCSE, but she still lacked ambition.

After a few years of moving around jobs, Simone had a child, and not long after became a single parent. It was this life event that saw a change in her mindset, with the responsibility of being a good role model to her child, Simone began to realise the importance of securing a good education. A return to learning saw Simone qualify as a proofreader, and subsequently set up her own proofreading business. To further her knowledge and skills, Simone then enrolled onto the copyediting course, and it was at this point that she realised how much she was enjoying learning.

The online learning style of her previous qualifications, alongside working from home and being a single parent wasn’t a combination that particularly suited Simone, and a chance conversation with an English and Creative Writing Lecturer at a university open day got Simone thinking that a degree in English Literature might be something that she could make a reality. Having made the decision to give the classroom another chance, Simone returned to Cambridge Regional College to begin her journey to completing a degree.

Simone Chalkley
Simone Chalkley

Simone said, “I took the Access to Humanities course, which involved studying three subjects: English Literature, Sociology, and History. I absolutely loved it! Our English Literature lecturer called the module a ‘whistle-stop tour’ because we whizzed through so many books and learned new ways to read them using theories I’d never heard of, like feminism and postmodernism. Initially, I was unsure about the Sociology module but going back as an adult learner, with more life experience, meant it was easier to put myself in someone else’s shoes, and this helped me grasp the concepts needed. I also discovered how much I enjoyed history, a subject I had not considered at GCSE but found enlightening; it fired me up. In addition, I completed my first ever research project and learned about study skills, which help you take all this new information and order it in a coherent fashion. It was at CRC that I finally understood what revision meant! I had lots of support to do the essential things that aid your learning on the course and prepare you for university. I’m so glad I didn’t overlook any aspect of the course.”

Upon returning to education, Simone was partly motivated by her desire to know whether she could find her place in the education system to achieve her goals. She was confident that she had the ability but having been told so often that she didn’t know how to apply herself, she wanted to challenge that opinion. Simone added, “At CRC, I learned that I did know how to do these things, and more. The experience gave me confidence in my proofreading and editing, directing me to take on more work in the education sector. I wanted to see if I had it in me to be creative again, to make something from scratch rather than shaping someone else’s work. It turned out that I can.”

Upon completing her Access course, Simone went on to the University of East Anglia and gained a 2.1 in English Literature with Creative Writing. As part of the course, she studied Scriptwriting and recently won the Snoo Wilson Prize for her 60-page historical fiction scriptwriting undergraduate dissertation!

Simone concludes, “Who knew! I am not sure what will happen from here on in, but I am keeping an open mind, just like I did when I started at CRC. I have continued in my editing and proofreading work, and have definitely become better at both, which was part of the original plan. I don’t know what will come next, I might go back to university and do an MA in Scriptwriting.  I might go all the way and gain a doctorate. Who knows? Once you start on that educational journey, it is really hard to stop. I want to keep on learning, especially now I have finally grasped how to do it.

If you are thinking of returning to education, just do it. Don’t delay. Get on the phone/fill in a form/go to an open day. You are never too old learn something new, or to retrain. I think I am testimony to that. It is hard, but it’s also really fun. There is so much to know and so little time to learn it in.”

Find out more about studying an Access course at CRC.

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