Funding a Young Learner’s Access to Education at Nottingham College City Hub

As a 17-year-old learner, Siobhan* is studying Level 2 Childcare in the East Midlands. Determined, resilient and ambitious, she has faced and overcome significant challenges to bring herself to where she is today. When Siobhan was a Level 2 Business student at Nottingham College City Hub, due to a family situation reaching a crisis point, she suddenly found herself living at a friend’s house. Everything she owned had been given away or destroyed, and she had no money to pay for travel to college; no clothing other than what she was wearing; and no communications technology. “It had a massive impact,” Siobhan says, “and my mental health suffered. I felt very alone, and to this day I’m trying to overcome this.”


Already having missed classes due to the situation, now living further away, and lacking reliable means to communicate with her college, Siobhan was likely to fail her course. However, despite the tremendous strain, she didn’t give up. Instead, she took action, applying for and receiving a Skills and Education Group Foundation Learner Grant, with the support of her pastoral tutor.


Siobhan used the grant to buy clothing, a mobile phone and a laptop, and to pay for travel to college. It gave her a fresh start, boosted her confidence, and helped her access support at college. “I got a lot of help from regular meetings with my tutors,” she says.

I was very grateful because it helped me to feel comforted, and I had someone to speak to when I didn’t feel like talking to someone at home.

Siobhan’s tutors also speak to the benefits of the grant. “The Learner Grant was seminal in allowing Siobhan to have some normality in a chaotic existence, and it gave her that glimmer of confidence she needed to continue working on her course and gain a qualification,” one says.

The most important aspect was the reminder that she wasn't alone and that people cared unconditionally about her welfare and future, which she needed at such a vulnerable time.

Siobhan’s tutors also recognise how the Learner Grant can empower other learners. For instance, whilst the standard Learning Support Fund (LSF) meets the needs of most students with low household income, it lacks flexibility when it comes to supporting students in crisis. The Learner Grant, however, meets that need. “Without the type of grant offered by the Foundation, learners who find themselves in situations like Siobhan’s can find themselves struggling to deal with a downward spiral lasting years,” Siobhan’s pastoral tutor says.

More colleges should take advantage of the grant.

He also lauds the Foundation for its support throughout the application process. “Joe [Foundation and External Affairs Manager] ensured that the process functioned dynamically and kept up with the fast moving aspects of our student’s life,” he says. “It felt like he wanted Siobhan to get the support as much as we did. His compassion and care inspires the confidence that we can create a system where we don’t lose students to aspects outside of their control.”


Currently considering her employment options, Siobhan remains passionate about learning, and underscores the importance of education in her life path. “Overall education is beneficial because it helps you to learn new skills,” she says. “It also helps you to find your next steps and give you ideas for the future.”


Rooted in the choices that she made in the face of overwhelming challenges, Siobhan’s success is well-earned. She is an example to us all, and each one of us at the Skills and Education Group Foundation are heartened and inspired by her story.

*Name changed for privacy

Find out more about our Learner Grants here.