International Women’s Day Student Story: The NEC A level English Literature course was my 1970s lifesaver! Monday, 08 March 2021

International Women’s Day is a chance to celebrate women, highlight inequality and challenge biases. Dr Jacqueline Jeynes studied with NEC in the 1970s and has gone on to gain a PhD. Her story is one of resilience and determination.

Please note that this post contains themes of domestic abuse and coercive control, and we understand that this may be difficult for some readers.

It was an auspicious day – 29th July 1966 when the England football team beat [West] Germany to take the World Cup title. I was 19 years old, in love, and we got married at 2pm on that day – clearly not football fans! Typically for a 1960’s marriage, I was soon pregnant with my first son and that was when things changed. It was easier to ignore the early warning signs of a controlling, jealous husband but to be fair, episodes only gradually worsened. 

Over 10 years of marriage, I was ‘allowed’ to stay at home with the growing family of 5 sons – a woman’s place of course. But every outing to the shops or walking to school was timed, with arguments about how long the queue was in Sainsbury’s, who I had met on the way, why was I late. So, where does the NEC come in? Basically, they were my lifesaver.

I had 8 GCE ‘O’ levels from school, was passionate about literature and drama, and ultimately needed something to stimulate my brain. Note I am extremely organised, even with so many small children, and time-management is my strength.

The NEC offered a distance learning A level English Literature course which I secretly signed up for. I cannot stress how wonderful these course materials were – enlightening, inspiring, introducing me to a wide range of classics of English literature. The crucial element was that the whole course taught me how to study.

I was allowed to take the children to the library so this was where I studied. Sadly, one day he found my books and course materials and burned them all. Although I was afraid of him, I also knew I could not stop my studies. The NEC were very understanding and sent me a new set of materials through my sister’s address so that I could complete the course. I was so excited to pass the exam!

It is easy for others to say, “why stay?” but in reality, it is not that easy to escape. Where do you go with 5 small children and a violent husband who will be chasing you? 50 years later, we are much more aware of such situations, but not necessarily providing any real help. You can only escape if he lets you, or you kill him with the first blow otherwise he will get up and get you! It really does seem like these are the only options.

It is clear that he was threatened by my increasing knowledge and confidence.

I did escape after 10 years and went on to gain a B. Ed (Hons) teaching degree, an MBA, and a PhD. I am eternally grateful to NEC for a course that taught me research skills and how to study. I am an avid believer in distance learning and use all these skills to support my work as a distance learning writer/tutor, originally with the Open College of the Arts and currently with Aberystwyth University. 

Author biography

Married to my current husband for almost 40 years, we have a large family of 8 children, 20+ grandchildren, and 7 great-grandchildren and no, we never all get together at the same time! I have been a published non-fiction author since 2000, am a travel writer (new marketing book due out soon), tutor on Art History distance learning modules, love long-distance walking, and am a member of Aberystwyth Printmakers. Oh yes, and I am a forever student, regularly studying online short courses just for me. We live in a beautiful harbour town on Cardigan Bay, Wales. and and email  

If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic violence or abuse, we recommend visiting the Refuge website or calling on 0808 2000 247.

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