From @StaffsStepUP to BA Hons Working with Children, Young People and Families: Danielle’s blog #StepUptoHE

Coming to university was never part of the plan. Indeed, I had no plan. Working in screen printing since I was 16, I was shy, nervous and simply had no ambition or desire to change my career. Then in 2020 something changed, I did what I wanted to do for most of my life and I came out as transgender. I knew by transitioning, I’d be happier, but I wasn’t expecting the levels of happiness, confidence and personal growth that was to follow. It was the more profound levels of personal growth that led me to Step Up to Higher Education (HE) course at Staffordshire University.

Finding myself becoming open about my journey on social media and visible within society, I began sharing my experiences in local media. The feedback was positive, I received messages from others telling me how much I was helping, this gave me much satisfaction, particularly messages from the mothers of transgender children.

Alongside this newfound confidence, came a growing ambition to change my career. I’d changed so much yet I felt trapped in a job the old me chose to do, I needed to find my own path. Exploring various career paths, I was always drawn back to the feeling of satisfaction those messages from the mums gave me and I’d found my calling, I needed to help people and support through employment and a new vocation.

University still wasn’t part of the plan. It had been over 20 years since I was in any form of education, I didn’t believe that university was a realistic option for me. That was until I found Step Up to HE. Initially, I found myself on the Staffordshire University website considering counselling as a possible career option, still not believing that I could go on to do a degree, I thought what have I got to lose?

During my initial interview with Step Up, my attention was drawn towards another degree, Working with Children, Young People and Families. Knowing I wanted to go on and help inspire and support young people, it felt a better fit for me. My interview was a success and I was in, I couldn’t believe I was starting university. There are many things I’ve done since transitioning I never imagined, such as swimming as a mermaid, or going on the radio but progressing to university as a mature learner was up there!

On the first day of Step Up, I was excited. I don’t get nervous anymore because, by coming out and transitioning I’ve already done the hardest things I’ll ever do. It’s given me a positive attitude and I was approaching Step Up like I approach many things now, with a sense of opportunity and excitement about where the degree will take me.

I felt so at home on campus and from the first lecture I knew I was in the right place, quickly learning skills in academic writing, research and referencing. University learning is such a contrast from my experience at school, it’s more relaxed and more engaging. The tutors were friendly, approachable and helpful and I also quickly made friends on the course who I now consider friends for life.

Though excited, I still had doubts. It has been so long since I was in education that I still wasn’t sure how I would take to it. Those doubts were soon alleviated, and I found myself excelling and learning quickly. I also had doubts about finance, these fears were eased with a lecture on student finance, showing us not to let finance be a barrier to education. Before I knew it, we were halfway through the course, my UCAS application was in, and I had received a conditional offer for my chosen degree in Working with Children, Young People and Families.

Achieving a First Class with Distinction on the first module is one of the proudest moments in my life. Historically, I was a C/D grade student at school yet here I was, after over 20 years out of education, smashing it! It inspired me to challenge myself in the second module which was all about research and developing everything we had learned. I wrote about the way transgender people are represented in the media and the impact it has on public perception. Choosing a subject I’m personally passionate about spurred me on. It was challenging to stay objective but I’m very proud of the work I produced, and I achieved another First Class in my final module.

Alongside Step Up and the confidence I gained at university, I was excelling in other areas of my life. I began volunteering for Mermaids, the transgender children’s charity, I became a trustee of the Staffordshire Sexual Health Charity, and I founded the Proud Potters, Stoke City’s first LGBTQ+ Supporters Group. It felt like everything was falling into line for me at the right time, I was gaining valuable experience and now I was on the path to gaining the qualifications too.

Since finishing the course, I have thrown myself at opportunities, taking on an additional voluntary role with Mermaids and volunteering for Middleport Matters as I am keen to work positively with the local community in Stoke-on-Trent. With Mind North Staffs, I’ve co-delivered an LGBTQ+ Awareness Course and I’ve also taken part in staff development days for Staffordshire County Council by sharing my experiences. Doing all of this around my full-time job while I look forward to starting my degree, Step Up has helped to open these doors to move forward with my future ambitions.

For me, the biggest thing that Step Up has done is unlock a potential I never knew was there. It’s ignited a passion for learning, shown my capabilities and it’s given me the ambition to succeed. Most of all, the course has helped me reaffirm this is what I want to do. I see a future for myself and I’m on the right path to helping young transgender and LGBTQ+ young people.

It’s been a life-changing couple of years, in more ways than I could have imagined. I’m 40 years old and my experience both with transitioning and now coming to university has taught me that it’s never too late to make positive changes in your life. What have you got to lose?


To find out more surrounding the Step Up to HE programme and how to apply for the next intake, check out our Course Webpage available at:

Linz’s story: Be the best you!

As the years passed, any consideration of further education felt aimless. Raising a family, being a wife, mother, worker left my other passions on pause.  I had a purpose and I thrived. However, despite my complacency and happy consistency of daily life, I became aware of an ever-growing sensation akin to longing. Familiar dreams and desires I’d almost forgotten about, started to taunt me. Regret that my opportunities of education had passed, and it was now too late. In particular, my dream of gaining a degree in a subject I’d wanted since the age of 16 was never going to become a reality. I am now however, in the last few weeks of that degree I dreamed of, and I couldn’t be any happier or equally any prouder of myself.  

Whilst working as cleaner for a company, it was there I first heard about the Step Up programme. Although it sounded enticing, I still felt it was so far from my reach as I truly believed I didn’t have the level of education needed to enrol in any university course. I simply didn’t feel smart enough to move forward. My struggle through high school, despite my best efforts resigned me to believing I couldn’t as I was left behind due to dyslexia, which wasn’t noticed and I was almost branded “lazy” and therefore, I accepted that label and simply gave up trying.  Still, I had to see what it entailed and maybe, just maybe, this was my last hope of my dream becoming true. Even suffering with learning difficulties and hidden disabilities, this has become the most amazing chapter of my life where I feel I have flourished. Not as a mother, wife and all the other hats I wear, this is for me. For Linz. And yes, I am proud of myself as is my family at the same time!  

My experience of the Step Up programme made going back to education fun. It taught me, regardless of any “obstacles” in my mind, they were in fact just another piece of me and encouraged me to see, not only how anything can be achieved, but also how to make the person you are discover your strengths. My confidence has become something that empowers me to take on new challenges, not shy away, embrace “me” and that is something I will take forward with me.  

Step Up provided everything you need to succeed. The additional support for learning, the ability to gain life skills to ensure you have the best chance possible to stand you a good confident position to take with you into any degree you wish to study.  After hiding my disabilities for years, I will now stand tall and not only openly talk about them but use them to encourage others in the same or similar position. Stand tall, embrace who you are and be proud!  

If you are feeling somewhat similar and don’t know where to start, we are here to help. Through our YES Project, we are able to offer 1:1 coaching and mentoring with young people aged 16-24 which aim to develop the following:   

  • Academic and Learning Development  
  • Life and Career Planning  
  • Mentoring and Coaching  
  • Information, Advice and Guidance on progressing to University  

Please feel free to get in touch with the team directly via email on or via Facebook: Step Up to Higher Education/Twitter: @StaffsStepUP and we’d be happy to see how we can help you achieve your future aspirations!   

Look forward to speaking with you soon,  


Say Yes to Becoming a Better You: Nesta’s story

At one point, I was qualified to do nothing, and that’s all I did; I’d wake up in the morning and turn my Xbox on or get my bike out and spend the whole day trying to enjoy myself, it wasn’t always successful, but I got completely used to wasting all my time.  

I went to four different colleges after I finished school, didn’t finish a course, honestly, I never made it past the first year because I felt too low to understand why I needed qualifications and looking past tomorrow into the future seemed like an exercise which didn’t suit me. 

Holding a job down was something abstract to me also, I struggled to wake up in the morning, let alone feel motivated to go and serve someone I didn’t know for a small portion of the profit I was producing for them.  

After years of under-performing and slowly spiraling into chaos, stagnating, and wasting my potential, I wanted to start enjoying life. I decided that I would construct my life in a way which suits me, I needed to earn money and I needed to enjoy myself whilst doing so, after reflecting on what has always excited me (technology and its ability to help people and save lives) I decided to pursue what I had always wanted to be, an inventor.  

I heard about the Step Up to HE course, which makes education accessible for people like me, to get a qualification in Engineering Design, so I would have the knowledge to bring ideas from my mind into reality, possibly the best decision I ever made, because the access to equipment and software provided by Staffs University is state of the art and allows users the chance to experience industry, with the comfort of course leaders and technicians to support us.  

From being able to meet people who think like me, to being introduced to skilful and experienced students who can help me develop my skills; I learned networking is the most important aspect of life generally, because as a human, we depend on others from birth and the more people you know, the more opportunities you are exposed to.  

Coming to university has evolved my potential, however this is not because of the university, it is rather about my attitude towards growth and the access I’ve had here has enable that growth; for some people, an apprenticeship may be the best route forward because of the hands-on learning inside the industry, for others, training providers may be a great place to learn and grow into someone competent. 

Whoever you are and whatever your desires may be, developing skills which will last a lifetime is what will inevitably help you become the best version of yourself. Through our YES Project, we can offer 1:1 coaching and mentoring with young people aged 16-24 which aim to include the following:

  • Academic and Learning Development 
  • Life and Career Planning 
  • Mentoring and Coaching 
  • Information, Advice and Guidance on progressing to University 

Please feel free to get in touch with the team directly via email on or via Facebook: Step Up to Higher Education/Twitter: @StaffsStepUP and we’d be happy to see how we can help you achieve your future aspirations!  

Look forward to speaking soon!


Kate’s story: Overcoming barriers to education and University

I’ve always found the act of learning to be incredibly exciting. Picking up new knowledge and widening my perspective, while also training myself to question, debate and adapt can be immensely empowering. I’ve always felt this way, however, until I arrived at university, I felt like I was never able to express this passion for learning properly. During my time in high school and college I remember feeling like a ghost and everything felt so out of reach. Dyslexia, depression, low self-esteem, anger and a general lack of interest behaved as brick walls that I had to face each time I tried to engage with studies. It made me feel so angry and exhausted that I became a passive observer. As such, I sat back and watched my friends receive their GCSE results and a few years later I sat back and watched them receive their A level results. Sitting back and observing suited me just fine, at least until I received my grades and realised that I might have done better if I hadn’t shown up at all.   

Annoyed by this unsettling reflection, I marched down to my Career Advisor in hopes of finding out how to amend my mistake. They told me I had two options, the first option was resitting, and the second was to try a course at Staffs Uni called Step Up  to Higher Education. Immediately, I knew resits were out of the question. My intention was to move forward. As such, I decided to try the Step Up course. Upon applying I had to attend an interview. I was so nervous I imagined a scenario where they would ask me where my grades were and what I’d been playing at all this time. I thought they’d judge me. I thought they might assume I was unteachable. Of course, none of these events occurred. Instead, I was met with a genuine willingness to help and understand. It overpowered my anxieties and allowed me to feel comfortable. After the interview, I was accepted on to the course and felt truly elevated by the outcome.  

It became clear to me that this understanding and positive approach was consistent throughout the course, and I was encouraged to express myself and engage. Each week I had a 1:1 meeting with the Course Leader, where the main topic of conversation was not about the things I did wrong or how poor of a job I may or may not have done, rather, it was all about me as an individual! They didn’t care about the mistakes I made in the past, or whether my grades were ‘good enough’. For the first time ever, it felt like someone was actually listening to me and trying to help. With this support, those brick walls I had mentioned earlier began to crumble, and, while I still have to acknowledge the rubble left behind, I don’t have to face it alone. Step Up to HE was a new beginning for me. It helped me to set a standard for myself, reigniting my passion for learning. 

The barriers you face might sound like mine or they could be entirely different, whether it be age, mental health, learning difficulties or adjusting to a new home country. The decision to pursue your goals is truly admirable.  

For this same reason, if you’re between the ages of 16- 24 and you’d like to begin your own journey, starting with Step Up To HE,  you can do so via the YES project, where you’ll receive 1:1 mentoring to guide you in your academic development and career/life planning. Furthermore, with this guidance, you’ll receive advice and information about potentially progressing on to university.  

Ensuring accessibility to education and offering appropriate aid so you can reach your goals is our top priority. If you’d like to find out more, please get in touch with us: 


Facebook: Step Up to Higher Education  

Twitter: @StaffsStepUP 

We look forward to hearing from you soon!  

– Kate  

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Say Yes to Education, Say Yes to Progress: Simone, Step Up Mentor

Accessing education can feel impossible for many people. There can be a lot of perceived obstacles you feel you have to overcome and believe that education is not for people ‘like us’ such things like; out of education for a long time, long-term unemployed, criminal records, dependents or neurodiversity. I can’t speak for everyone but this was how I felt back in 2019 and I tick all of the above boxes.

I was told about the ‘Step Up to HE’ from a friend and I was looking for a new direction after leaving an abusive relationship. I thought about it and decided to apply. I honestly thought that Staffordshire University would take one look at my application and dismiss it, but after a few days, I had an email inviting me to an interview. It was exciting walking into the Science Centre. It’s an amazing space and you can feel a good vibe there. However, in the back of my mind I did not think I would be accepted because back in 2019, I didn’t understand what education is and the ethos of ‘Step Up to HE’. 

Step Up to HE is all about making education accessible. The programme leaders are more interested in your life experience and willingness to engage with them, than solid qualifications or bumps in your past. The leaders understand that the more diversity within educational institutions, the bigger the potential for creativity and new ideas, alongside challenging concepts about who is able to contribute within society. These seem like big ideas but they start with an individual. One such as myself or the many others who want to achieve and are unsure if they can. ‘Step Up to HE’ is a free course that gives you the tools and UCAS credits needed to apply for an undergraduate degree and it doesn’t end once the course is completed. 

‘Step Up to HE’ will support you in making decisions about what degree is right for you, make sure you get the correct funding for your course and any bursaries you might be entitled to. One other personal obstacle I am living with, is a hidden neurodiversity, Dyslexia. It was gently pointed out to me while studying, and I was signposted to the Staffs University Inclusion Team. Where I was able to get a diagnosis and the relevant support I needed. 

Being diagnosed really helped me understand myself better. I didn’t put myself down anymore for being ‘stupid’ because dyslexia doesn’t mean you can’t pursue education, it means you learn differently and there is support from Staffordshire University, for many forms of neurodiversity.  

Accessing education has changed my life, it has changed the way I perceive myself, given me the confidence to go for opportunities I would have never even considered or had access to. Education is a challenge and a commitment; you will need determination but all the other things that make you doubt you can do it begin to fade as you take your first steps and begin your own journey through Step Up.

If you are feeling somewhat similar and don’t know where to start, we are here to help as Step Up Mentors. Through our YES Project, we are able to offer 1:1 coaching and mentoring with young people aged 16-24 which aim to develop the following: 

  • Academic and Learning Development 
  • Life and Career Planning 
  • Mentoring and Coaching 
  • Information, Advice and Guidance on progressing to University

Please feel free to get in touch with the team directly via email on or via Facebook: Step Up to Higher Education/Twitter: @StaffsStepUP and we’d be happy to see how we can help you achieve your future aspirations!  


Past Step Up student and future Barrister Joe secures prestigious ‘Prince of Wales Scholarship’ with Gray’s Inn

1. What motivated you to apply for Step Up?

Initially, before applying to study Step Up at Staffs, I was working in a call centre which was proving to be a rather monotonous role where most days were the same. Deep down, I knew there was no longevity in the position, especially as I needed something to challenge me and where I could develop a career. Energised by the prospect of change, I gained some work experience in a local law firm which really solidified my ambition in wanting to take the plunge. The only thing that held me back was knowing I had not gained any formal qualifications above GCSE’s gained in high school, therefore I was looking for alternatives in order to access university as a mature student. When I started Step Up, I wanted to be a solicitor. However deep down I actually really wanted to be a barrister, but I was put off the idea because I didn’t think it possible without having A-levels (or the full-range of GCSE’s for that matter).

2. How did you feel your first day?

As someone who felt my time spent at school could have gone a little better, I found the prospect of returning to education extremely intimidating – therefore felt this time would be no different. Nevertheless, while I found the first day nerve wracking, the whole environment made me feel comfortable and I found I wasn’t too dissimilar after all to other students within our group. After the first few days, I felt my confidence grow and build. The positive and supportive relationships built with fellow students and the teaching staff allowed the experience to become both enjoyable and rewarding.

3. Has Step Up and your degree helped you in anyway, if so, how?

Looking back to before I started university, I feel Step Up and completing my Law degree has given me an opportunity to realise my true potential. I have noticed my confidence levels grow over the years and the academic elements of the course have allowed me to hone the skills required to be successful within the legal profession. Upon completing my final year, after a pretty arduous application process, I was awarded the Prince of Wales scholarship from Gray’s Inn, which means they will be financing my BPC/LLM course with the University of Law. This means that after being interviewed by three highly experienced barristers, they actually believe I can do it and be successful within the profession I have dreamed about making a difference within. Ultimately, the positive and supportive nature of Step Up and degree level study has I feel provided the supportive and encouraging environment I needed to believe in my own abilities and potential.

4. What advice would you give to students considering returning to education?

The only advice I would give to someone who is thinking of returning of education is don’t think too small. I know it sounds cliché, however it is never too late to change what you want to do in life in order to work towards the goals and ambitions you may have. The whole journey and return to education can cause an element of unease, however it provides an opportunity for you to challenge some of the self-inhibiting thoughts and beliefs that are holding you back from fulfilling your potential. While this may be difficult in the short-term, my advice would be to work through this and get the support from the staff and fellow students. They will be able to guide you through and encourage you to believe in your potential which will act as a firm spring board for your next steps.

5. How do you feel now you have completed your degree and are moving onto your next stages of Barrister training?

I feel energised and inspired overall from the last few years. The whole process of higher education has allowed me to positively change the perception I had of myself which was holding me back. In addition to the academic studies I have completed to date, I am now looking forward to getting stuck into the more vocational and practical elements of legal life and working in the profession. I feel this first-hand experience will form part of a valuable learning curve so one day I can finish my pupillage and become a practicing Barrister in the very near future!


For more details on how to apply for the next intake of Step Up to HE follow the link:

Step Up student blogs: Nesta

1.What motivated you to apply for Step Up?

I was introduced to Step Up as an avenue into university by a friend who enrolled on this course and spoke so highly of it. At first, I initially thought that taking Step Up as a route into higher education wasn’t comprehensive enough to support my future ambitions. So, I went back to college and decided to go through the 2 year course and then get into university this way; after being back at college for a few months I became unsatisfied with the level of learning. Remembering the Step Up route, I then applied during my holiday off college and I think it was the best decision I’ve ever made.

2.How did you feel your first day?

On the first day, I was partially nervous but on the whole mainly excited. During the first session alone, I had learned more than I did in the prior months I had spent at college! I hadn’t been exposed to this level of learning before and it opened my eyes so much and got me so excited for the rest of the course and the learning style of university. The people I met on my first day were welcoming and friendly but also mature and helpful and we quickly made strong relationships and bonded on multiple levels. The lecturers were also so helpful, introducing us to the mechanics of university, where to find great sources and get in depth help throughout our education.

3.How do you feel now you have progressed on to Engineering Design?

When I was told to apply directly for my degree and miss the foundation year, I was terrified. I didn’t know if I was capable of comprehending the work, let alone passing with a high grade. Once I spoke to the staff on the course, they reassured me and I understood that their experience with university and students on Step Up meant that they knew better than me what level of education I could achieve at. Now I’m deep into my first semester, I can comfortably work through the technical units and smash all of the assignments since we covered: academic writing; sourcing and extracting correct information; finding help from the wide selection of available tutors and handling deadline stress. I’m confident in my ability and I can confide in my lecturers to get the extra help as and when I need it.

4.Has Step Up helped you in anyway, if so, how?

Step Up has introduced me to my own abilities which I didn’t know I had; helped me develop my level of critical thinking and shown me how to write both clearly and concisely. It has also provided me the route onto the perfect degree and challenged me in the most positive of ways; increased my rational confidence; all whilst increasing my professional network and allowing me the access to such great facilities to work with.

5.What advice would you give to students considering returning to education?

The same thing I tell all of my friends: DO IT! It’s the most fulfilled I’ve felt in years, after doubting my own abilities and not nourishing parts of my mind because I never thought I’d need them again, I now know what I’m capable of (anything I believe I can do). Equally, from a business sense, I also know how to create and protect my own intellectual property, I have help from lecturers and students on my own business ( if you’re interested in streetwear) which makes the workload from doing two big things a lot more manageable. On the Step Up course, there was parents, business owners and a whole raft of people from all different backgrounds who are now striving through education. In learning, oftentimes as people we think we can’t but Step Up is the perfect place to realise that YOU CAN.


For more details on how to apply for the next intake of Step Up to HE follow the link:

Step Up student blogs: Rachael

  1. What motivated you to apply for Step Up?

I was initially motivated to apply for Step Up because I was entirely unsure what university was all about and what studying at degree level would consist of. As a learner, I didn’t know how to approach or complete the academic side of study and the thought of writing essays and reports sent shivers done my back! Similarly, as I know the expectations of nursing students are rather high, I wanted to ensure I had developed the required skills before jumping straight in – especially as I wanted to give my full attention to learning the clinical and practical aspects of studying a course in nursing.

2. How did you feel on the first day?

An absolute varied range of emotions. Some good, however, some which also made me question whether I was cut out for university and the challenge that lay ahead. This uncertainty was in part due to my home country being Nigeria which made me rather overwhelmed due to the thought of studying within a British university. However, these feelings soon subsided, especially once I understood what support was available and the friendliness of the university and teaching staff. Within a couple of weeks, I had settled in well and was starting to enjoy the new challenge and importantly improving my self-confidence. This is something that has stayed with me!

3. How do you feel now you have progressed on to Child Nursing?

Now that I’m on my degree and into the first months of teaching, I feel less overwhelmed and more in control of my learning and time management. Since completing Step Up, I feel as though I have a distinct advantage over some of my peers on the nursing degree as I know how to research and reference correctly through the knowledge I have developed through the course. As a student, it has been reassuring to have other students ask me to help them with the academic side. This has really solidified my place within the university as I feel as though I have something of value to contribute, not only to myself but also to peers I work with on my degree.

4. Has Step Up helped you anyway, if so, what?

Step Up was a fantastic introduction to university level study. Within nursing as an area, it is crucial to be able to research effectively and to look at the correct sources which you can then apply to your practice within a placement environment. Step Up has enabled me to do this with ease and in turn given me the self-belief I needed to hit the ground running with my undergraduate degree. I now have the skills and tools to write clearly, concisely and effectively while being able to approach the various assessments on my course with confidence.

5. What advice would you give to students considering returning to education?

I would advise anyone returning to education or thinking about progressing to university to give the Step Up course a go. The staff believe in you more than you probably believe in yourself and this really helps with developing your confidence and self-belief. It has opened so many opportunities for me and I feel as though I have changed positively as a person now I have a new challenge. It has given me the path to the career I have always aspired to reach and a new path for the future!

Go for it –


For more details on how to apply for the next intake of Step Up to HE follow the link:

From Step Up to BA Hons English and Creative Writing to published short stories. Jessica’s blog

It was 21st April 2016, and that was that. I stood outside Cadman library having just handed in my final year project (a 10,000 word novella called Strangers), and felt a sense of pride almost equal to the day my daughter was born.

My journey began on the 22nd April 2013. I was 25 years old and fed up of companies telling me, “I’m sorry, we are going to have to let you go, we just can’t afford to keep you”. This, as well as prospective employers only wanting graduates, was when I made the decision to go to university. It wasn’t a new idea, I had been toying with it for years. The should I, shouldn’t I dance was performed in my living room almost on a weekly basis and I think everyone was tired of me saying I would, but not. After browsing the Staffordshire University website, I found the Step Up course, and it was perfect. A 10-week programme, that would give the education skills I was lacking having attempted (and failed) half a year of college almost a decade before hand. Generally, I achieved good grades in high school, and achieved reasonable results in my GCSE’s. But the sixteen-year-old me was a master of her own destiny, and obviously knew what was best for her so she drifted in and out of jobs and eventually being a mother took precedence.

On that fateful Monday, I put my big girl pants on, and attended my first Step Up lecture. Afterwards, my head was spinning. I didn’t know which way was up, or indeed if I could actually continue with my intended route. But with my sheer pig-headed determination, I pushed through the nagging feeling that I was going to fail, and I passed. As the weeks wore on, I got more confident in what I was doing. Lectures on research skills, gave way to Harvard referencing, the difference between a subjective and an objective opinion, and how to navigate Summon and RefZone. All these things, along with the fantastic support of all the Step-Up team (especially Rachel, who is phenomenal at what she does. Thank you very much for helping me with my dreaded UCAS application and my personal statement!), and also a few Student Ambassadors, made me feel that the sky wasn’t the limit at all. My only limit, was the amount I pushed myself.

About half way through Step Up I was given a conditional offer on Staffordshire University’s BA English and Creative Writing course. Even though said degree is predominantly writing creatively (in the way of short stories, poems, non-fictional writing such as reviews, blogs and a magazine, and even an artists portfolio), I almost got through it WITHOUT having to write an essay, the transferable skills I had learned on the Step Up course ensured that I hit the ground running, and didn’t fall flat on my face within my first year. My confidence only grew with each assignment I submitted, and I was able to critically analyse set texts, and take on board and understand writer’s techniques that resulted in an 80% in one module. Thanks to Step Up I had started to create a logical and linear thought process that I had been lacking, due to my personality disorder and mental health issues.

I won’t lie to you, juggling university and Motherhood/Partnerhood, has been tough too. But luckily for me, my daughter is absolutely fantastic. Lydia was even been able to attend a few lectures with me when she’s been poorly, or when those dreaded inset days have reared their head. Seriously, the lecturers are THAT understanding! I think my journey has also, in part, been for her. It was always essential for me to lead by example and let Lydia see what can be achieved. Seeing her Mum at university has inspired her to become a marine biologist, just like her idol, Sylvia Earle (can I just say that she does a really good impression of David Attenborough too, if you give her 50p).

I graduated in July 2016 (something that I never thought I would do), at the same time I was awarded one of two highly commended writer prize in the Stoke-on-Trent literary festival, and in September of the same year I had my very first short story published, and then another in 2017 (*cough cough, both anthologies available on Amazon or from Immanion Press, cough*). I would like to take this opportunity to say that you can too. If you are thinking about it, take the plunge. The Step Up course opened the door to a world that is so far removed from what I was used to in my brief stint at college  and in high school. University has a more relaxed paced (which suits those of us whose spirit animal is a koala). It does get a little hectic come deadline day, but if you remember that organisation is the key to success, you’ll be fine. If you think you’re too old for it, you’re really not. If you need that bit of extra support, no matter why, it is always just an email, a phone call, or a discreet conversation away. It may sound a little cliché, but if I can do it, anyone can.


For more details on how to apply for the next intake of Step Up to HE follow the link:

Step Up to PhD level study: Steven’s blog

In March 2010, I entered a rehabilitation facility to tackle an addiction problem that had begun when I was 14 years old. As my recovery journey progressed I became determined to replace my addiction with something far more positive, and in January 2011 I began evening classes on a counselling course, and attended the Step-Up to HE course at Staffordshire University. This course gave me a thirst for knowledge and learning, as well as an inner confidence that I could attend and achieve at university-level education.

In September 2011, I began a Sociology-based course entitled Crime, Deviance and Society (BA) and graduated with a 2:1 (with honours). I then searched for an appropriate Masters course which reflected my research thoughts and ideas, and in September 2016 began an MSc in Public Health (Addictions) at Liverpool John Moores University. At the same time, I joined New Beginnings, a group of voluntary, former service-users that work with individuals in a detoxification unit based at the Harplands Hospital. I now also hold positions on the Service User and Carers Council, the Research and Development Steering Group, and the Directorate for Substance Misuse within the North Staffordshire Combined Healthcare Trust, as well as having an involvement with the City of Culture 2021 bid.

As part of my Masters course, I wrote a paper linking the Theories of Addiction to serial killing, which won an award for innovation and led to funding enabling me to go to the USA for a week to do field work and research. This was in May of this year, and included developing a network with professors at Yale University in New Haven, Southern Connecticut State University, and a few days field work in New York. The experience and networks I developed there are invaluable, and are helping me to be at the forefront of developing a peer mentoring and peer coaching scheme as part of my role at New Beginnings, as well as being part of a project within the NHS Trust to set up a ‘Recovery College’ in the Stoke and North Staffordshire area.

I am currently working on my dissertation, which centres around a Social Evaluation of the Importance of Peer Support in Recovery, and have a clear idea of research I wish to undertake at PhD level. I have an appointment in January at Monash University in Melbourne, Australia with a senior professor who is offering the professional expertise, resources and finances to assist with my research, and I am in talks trying to gain similar support in the UK. It is also possible to work with the networks I established in the USA, so I am hoping to be in a position where I can choose and dictate my own research based upon the best and most appropriate offer I receive.

Life is busy and full, the future holds optimism and excitement, and after battling addiction, the basis for this all began at Step-Up, which opened all the opportunities that followed. I owe an awful lot to Rose Taylor and the team that ran Step-Up back then; not only has it taken me on this educational and professional journey, it is also where I met the woman who became my wife!

For more details on how to apply for the next intake of Step Up to HE follow the link: