Joanne Bowey knows more than most about what it takes to get through University. She returned to education and graduated with a degree in Early Childhood Studies from the University of Sunderland in 2006, and now works as a primary school teacher in Sunderland. But over a decade after Joanne graduated, she gained a whole new perspective on higher education when daughter Alex decided she wanted to follow in her mother’s footsteps.
Now daughter Alex, who won a prestigious Sir Tom Cowie Scholarship in the final year of her Primary Education degree, has graduated with First Class honours and landed her first teaching post. Joanne offers a parent’s view of the perils and joys of sending your children off to study at university.
“Going to University has helped Alex to become more confident, organised and independent,” says Joanne. “She has had to learn how to manage her time and prioritise different areas of her life around her studies and, until the final year of her degree, around her working life too. All of these are vital life skills and she has embraced it all.
“Alex has wanted to be a primary teacher for as long as I can remember. The Primary Education degree was perfect for her to realise her career ambitions. It gave her all the knowledge and support that she needed to become a primary school teacher, alongside her volunteering work.
“Alex had to have full financial support as I am a single parent – and I do worry about the amount of debt she has now. At the same time I accept that this is how it is in this current climate. It is a worry, but I know the repayment scheme is fair.
“Alex was also awarded an academic bursary, which she received in her first and second year, and I was extremely proud when she was awarded the Sir Tom Cowie Memorial Scholarship. I saw how she was recognised as a fully committed and hard-working student. She put her scholarship to good use; volunteering in school every week, taking different courses and taking part in the wider life of the school. None of this would have been possible without the scholarship, as she was able to quit her part-time job at Sainsbury’s. I strongly believe the Sir Tom Cowie Scholarship was a huge factor in her achieving her First Class Honours degree.
“I didn’t really have any concerns about Alex going to University. As a graduate of Sunderland, I was very proud and confident in her abilities to do well.”
What would you say to other parents who might have reservations about their child going to University?
“I can understand parents worrying about things like student debt, moving away and the amount of work that the students have to do, but the hard work and commitment will pay off.
“I can’t believe Alex’s time at Uni is over. It seems only a very short time ago that she was starting Freshers’ Week and worrying about making new friends.
“I would say to any parent; just try to be the constant in their life as they go through this journey, it will be over before you know it. I am now awaiting Alex starting her career at a lovely local primary school. Hopefully now it is onwards and upwards for her.”
But for Joanne and her family, the journey is not quite over yet.
“My son Joe is starting a Media Production degree at Sunderland in September this year – so I’m starting all over again.”
You can read University of Sunderland’s top tips on budgeting here.