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From GCSEs with NEC to a Psychology Access to Higher Education Course

Laura Howard

Laura studied GCSE maths, psychology and English language with NEC after ill health meant that her school attendance was very low.

School was always a struggle for me. I (as well as my twin sister) was diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease when I was around 12 and, as a result, I suffered with depression and anxiety. I never got to sit my GCSEs during school because my attendance was so low. After a few years of getting better and going to college, I decided to do my GCSEs, as not having them was something that was holding me back and limiting my options with other courses I wanted to pursue.

I decided to do Maths, English Language and Psychology GCSE with the National Extension College (NEC). This was after being kindly accepted for a grant towards my courses thanks to Crohn’s & Colitis UK.

I decided to do Psychology because I had always had an interest in the subject, but until discovering NEC, I had never had the opportunity to. NEC provided clear and easy to follow documents to work from.

At the end of every topic there was a small test so you could make sure you knew the information, as well as exam hints throughout which turned out to be very helpful for revision. There were assignments at the end of each topic which I would complete and hand in to my tutor; the feedback on these were what really helped improve my grade. It’s interesting to look back and see my progression.

One of my favourite topics was on memory. It helped me to understand how we interpret and retain information which proved to be very helpful for me when remembering content during revision! I also enjoyed the topic on animal communication, particularly on how bees communicate with one another –  I see bees very differently now!

Psychology taught me how we behave in positive ways but also how we can react and behave negatively depending on what costumes/uniforms we are in, or what someone in a lab coat with a clipboard tells us to do. It also made me question how I might behave in some of the experiments I learnt about. Would I conform with the majority opinion? Or would I speak up?

I have now received my results and have met my offer. I will be doing a Psychology access to higher education course at a college (one step closer to going to university!). I can’t wait to carry on with Psychology and gain an even deeper understanding on why we do the things we do, and learn about other psychological problems and therapies I don’t know about yet.

Going to university was something that never seemed achievable to me. Since doing the course, I have not only gained a Psychology GCSE qualification which opens up opportunities I never would have had, but I have a new found confidence with learning that I never had back when I was at school.