Reflections of a student returning to education during lockdown
 <david_rattry___to_go_with_news_article.jpeg> I am David Rattray, 51 yrs old father of 2 and an ex-SWAP student at Halbeath campus.

I was working as a Contract Supervisor for a Diamond Drilling and Passive Fire Protection just before the pandemic hit. I was cruising to be honest, enjoying the job on building sites across Scotland and earning more money than I could spend. I was in my comfort zone.

Then along came covid at the turn of the year and the whole construction industry shut down soon after. In June I was told of the plans to make me redundant, to say this was a shock was an understatement. I did have 2 daughters in further education, one at Edinburgh going into her 3rd year in Mathematics and one in College at the Kirkcaldy campus doing Event planning and management, and as I was feeling sorry for myself, they asked if I fancied going to further education myself. This was the lightbulb moment I needed, and I immediately applied to Edinburgh University (with the help of my daughters) and eagerly awaited their decision on my future. Edinburgh replied soon after and I failed to gain entry, due to me not being in education for almost 35 years which made my education level unknown, I was very disappointed with this, but they then suggested I do a SWAP access course to enable me to get the grades required for entry. I immediately applied to College at Halbeath and I was also still working my notice at this time. I had informed my employer of my plans and she was very supportive and said she would let me go early if I was accepted at the College.  I then heard from Halbeath and I was accepted on the course. All this happened in 3 months, a relatively short time considering I was going in a completely different direction.

I was over the moon, I never knew what to expect at college but it was a fantastic experience from day one, we were still under covid restrictions and did all our classes online bar ½ day per fortnight in a classroom. I found this very difficult at the start as my IT skills were lacking but with the support of my fellow students and direction from the college staff, I soon found my feet. All the classes were enjoyable and very interactive and inclusive, we talked about some very hard issues in some classes and I loved it, I love the whole being back into education thing, I felt great, the highs I was feeling were better than I felt in employment, I saw doors opening to avenues I never knew were there or thought that I had missed due to me being older, the feelings were amazing, unbelievable.

I had soon realised that I was going to try for a place at university, I went through UCAS and again applied to Edinburgh and a few others, St Andrews being one of them, I remember the first conditional offer I received from university, I was euphoric, I was on such a high, a feeling I had not had for a very long time, it is hard to describe how great I felt. I had decided to go to St Andrews if I made the grade. 3 A’s was required and thanks to excellent staff at Halbeath, I had made the grade for St Andrews. I am now an undergraduate doing Ancient History and Archaeology. This was huge achievement for me, and I still get emotional when I think about it and where I am now. A student at the University of St Andrews, voted the best university in the UK and I’m there.

None of this would have been possible without the SWAP course, it opened my eyes and opened doors for me, and I will be forever grateful to the amazing tutors and my fellow students for helping me get to where I am. The SWAP course was the catalyst that propelled me to achieve what I have so far, and it will be in my thoughts when I do more. I cannot speak highly enough of the SWAP course, and I would thoroughly recommend this course to anyone who is going back into education, I wouldn’t be where I am without it. 
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