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Carla Sixsmith
- BA Hons Education and Special Educational Needs

Carla Sixsmith

I have always wanted to be a graduate. Until now, there was always something standing in my way. A big part of this was self-belief and I considered it a pipe dream.

After 15+ years in school/community work- part time to enable me to care for my young family- I had applied for and was about to interview for a full-time position working for a more prestigious service. I began to question my next steps and thought that instead of the new job, this would be the perfect opportunity, as the children were getting older, to apply for that Degree I had always wanted. The timescale meant that I could Graduate before I was 40!

I walked through the door of the University Centre to meet Anne-Marie, little did I know at this point how much I would come to depend on her and what an important part of my journey she would become.

As a high school student, I was easily distracted, scraping by with good passes took a lot of work. So, when I received the grade for my first piece of work with such encouraging feedback, I sat in the car and cried! I felt like I had unlocked a passion inside me which was about to take me down a pathway which I never thought possible!

Do not get me wrong, it was not all plain sailing. Particularly as years 2 and 3 were interrupted by the Covid 19 pandemic. Throughout this time, I had serious doubts. Juggling study, caring for my family, home schooling, heightened anxiety and still studying. The world was a vastly different place. The person who pushed me through the doubts was Anne-Marie. Always at the end of the phone or scheduling a Zoom, listening to my moans, tears and celebrating each win. Comments from my fellow students were equally positive. Tutors became more flexible and really wanted us to continue and do well. The all-around support was outstanding.

The tutors were fabulous, and the course content is in line with my own interests. I have worked with children and families but have a particular interest in support for disabled students- and where lacking, the effect that this has on their mental health and prospects. My Dissertation was focused on the impact of transition periods for disabled students- a project that I wish to continue.

September 2021, I received notification that I had achieved a BA Hons Education and Special Educational Needs 2:1 - 8 weeks before my 40th birthday! I could not believe that I had done it. I am a first-generation Graduate- the ceremony with my family, friends, tutors and fellow students was amazing- I wish I could re-live it over again. I often look over photographs and cannot quite believe that it is me.

On successful completion of the degree, I was able to apply for a position at a higher level. I am currently employed in The SEND Department of a local high school; my responsibilities include day to day management of the Teaching Assistant team, planning and delivering interventions, liaising with other agencies in Bury, action planning, EHCP reviews, delivery of training and transition support.

This has been the most amazing experience of my life. I have made lifelong friends from all ages and backgrounds, improved my understanding of Education and Disability, gained confidence in myself, and have a burning desire to learn more.



My next steps

I have been working in my new role for 5 months now and am currently completing assessments for a Diploma in Trauma Informed Practices; a course delivered by TISUK and accredited by the Institute for Arts and Therapy in Education. My goal is to return to Liverpool Hope soon to complete a Masters level course; combining my knowledge from both my Degree and Diploma, I would like to further my undergraduate project.

My advice to anyone who is considering study at Holy Cross would be to do it. You will never look back; doors will open, and the most wonderful opportunities will land at your feet.