Marion McLachlan
Access to Humanities - John Wheatley College
BA (Hons) in Criminology & Sociology University of Stirling
Currently studying for a master's degree at the University of Stirling
 <marion_photo2.jpg> Marion is a former Access to Humanities Student at John Wheatley College and a graduate of University of Stirling, in BA (Hons) Criminology and Sociology.  She is currently studying at the University of Stirling for a Masters in Housing Studies.

‘SWAP definitely prepared me for university and enabled me to achieve something I would never have thought possible.  This has quite literally been a life changing decision for me’.

I went to school in Cumbernauld; I had excellent attendance, worked hard and was reasonably popular, but I was also bullied.  I received good class marks, but failed my O Grades.  I left school in 1975 at the age of 16 and entered Strathclyde Police Cadets hoping to later join the Police Force.  I had two years to prove my ability since I left school with no qualifications.  I did indeed prove myself and became a police officer until 1982, when I left to have my children.  There were no part-time or job-sharing opportunities at that time, so my police career was over.

After my children were born, I was involved in playgroup committees and play leader training provision for a number of years.  My marriage ended in 1994 and the following year I attended college to gain an HNC in Childcare and Education.  I then worked as an assistant coordinator in a mobile play team within a Glasgow Regeneration area.  This ended, along with another thirty five local community projects, when Government funding ceased.
Then I became a secure residential childcare officer within a young offender secure provision in Bishopbriggs.  However, after doing this job for several years, I suffered a life-changing brain injury at work which has left me with some disability issues for the past eleven years. Following the brain injury I lost my independence, suffered from overwhelming fatigue and headaches and had severe memory, balance and coordination issues.  However, I started doing crossword magazines to pass the time.  Initially, I could only find one word, but as time passed I was able to complete two magazines in a day. 

About seven years after the accident I was starting to think about my future career.  I first encountered SWAP on the internet when searching for courses to access education.  My daughter, who was my carer, made the telephone call that would get me onto the SWAP Humanities programme at John Wheatley College in Easterhouse. I attended an interview after my course had started, and was accepted. 

The first day was stressful as I was worried about whether I would be accepted by the other students and achieve a pass.
  My classmates were however brilliant; they were friendly, approachable, supportive and fun.  We all became lifelong friends and I keep in touch with most of them and we still meet up for lunch about once a year.

The SWAP programme was well managed, varied, interesting and set at a pace that was achievable.  Ongoing tutor support and reassurance helped to build my self-confidence and self-esteem and took account of my learning disabilities.
Sociology, history and English were the most interesting subject areas for me.  I was initially worried about English; however with good tutor support I not only achieved a good result but also enjoyed the process.  I struggled with French and maths, but discovered through an educational assessment that I had become number dyslexic after the accident and had difficulty recalling and retaining information. Mutual support from classmates ensured that those who genuinely wanted to pass did so.  As a group we blended well and empathised with each other. 

Staff were very supportive in all areas of the curriculum and understood the challenges of adults returning to education.  They also helped me prepare for university and, through a number of organised visits to different educational establishments, helped me choose where I wanted to go.
SWAP definitely prepared me for university and enabled me to achieve something I would never have thought possible.  I grew up believing that I was more practical than academic, so gaining three 'A' grades for SWAP was a huge confidence boost!


At university there was a slight increase in the level of work in first year, but I had more time to concentrate on specific subjects.  The university also ensured that support for learning was in place through the disability department, who organised tutoring, alternative exam arrangements, financial support, SAAS disability support and counselling services throughout my student life.

I feel that I have regained a part of myself that I lost following the accident.  By this I mean independence, self-confidence and raised self-esteem.  
I graduated in June 2013 with a BA (Hons) in Criminology and Sociology and am currently studying for a taught diploma in Housing Studies.  I feel confident that I will achieve my master's degree and I will be a qualified housing officer at the end of my studies.   I attend SWAP visit days at university and speak to new students transferring from college.  I have done this for four years now and have gained new friendships through providing mentoring support to others.

I encourage others to take advantage of the opportunities that life offers you and realise that you are not alone; everyone at the beginning of college or university feels the same.  Anything can be achieved if you manage your time and keep up-to-date with studying.  Try to make good notes as you go as it will make assignment writing easier.  Take advantage of all support available within the university environment and if you are not sure of something – ask.
I am definitely glad that I have returned to education through the SWAP route as this has been quite literally a life-changing decision for me. 
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