Posted Tuesday 11 August 2020
Katie Ross wanted to work in the prison system from a young age, but feared her dyslexia might hold her back. A last minute application through the Clearing process secured her a place on a social work degree run jointly by Kingston University and St. George's University, London, and one year on Katie said it was the best decision she has ever made.
Katie, from Plymouth in Devon, admitted not many little girls dream of working in a prison. "The real draw for me was the idea of rehabilitation and being able to help someone at their lowest point - to give them some hope for the future when everyone else might have given up on them," she explained.
Seeking a strong academic foundation, Katie decided to study psychology at A-level and then at university. However, she battled with dyslexia throughout her school life and although she had managed to secure a place on a psychology course at Kingston University, Katie felt increasingly daunted at the prospect of a psychology degree, which is heavily based on academic learning.
Katie had her heart set on going to Kingston University, as it ticked all the boxes for her in terms of location and being close to her brother in London so she decided to look at what other courses were available at the University.
At that point, she knew very little about social work as a career option. "I'd heard of social workers, but didn't really understand much about what they do," she said. "When I started to read about the social work degree course it brought together everything that I love. It was practical, it incorporated psychology and sociology, there were interviews and placements and the course emphasised practical skills as much as writing - it was everything I was looking for."
It was straightforward to apply through Clearing and Katie is full of praise for the team who guided her through every step of the process. Nonetheless, the interviews for the course in the Faculty of Health, Social Care and Education were highly competitive and only three students secured a place, so it was a huge confidence boost when she was selected.
A year later, Katie is thriving on her course and said she is so glad she made the change. "What I really love is that this course is rewarding all my practical skills, which were never really recognised before," she explained.
"When I was growing up I always thought I had to go down the academic route," she continued. "But now I'm doing a professional degree and it has given me so much more confidence."
Although her dyslexia continues to present challenges, Katie says her course tutors have been incredibly supportive. "One tutor noticed I was struggling in lessons with the written material on the board, and she sat me down and talked me through everything I needed. I don't normally like to make a fuss but I was so touched that she made that effort - I wanted to cry. Now I have so much support and feel like anyone else in a lecture."
Jane Mathew-Byrne, practice learning lead in the Department of Social Work and Social Care, explained that Katie was attracted by the University's facilities. "When Katie joined us through Clearing she was particularly attracted by our social work department's Skills Lab," she said. "In this purpose built unit students can develop communication skills in small groups via role plays and simulated visits to families which are recorded for students to watch their 'performance' and adjust techniques."
In her second year Katie is looking forward to her placements with different social services, starting with children and families services. Further ahead, she is considering becoming a probation officer, to finally fulfil her dream to work with prisoners.
Katie's advice for anyone else considering changing their course or applying for a Clearing place is, "Listen to your instincts. You just have to do what is right for you."