By Chrissie Brown - Nutrition and Dietetic student at Kings College London, Gypsy, Roma and Traveller Student Lead for KCLWP and advisory board member to the Traveller Movement.
My name is Chrissie, I’m just starting my final year at university as a mature student, and I thought it was a good time to look back at my ‘final years’ at school too…
I enjoyed primary school, there were a couple of other Gypsy families that went to the school, although not in my year, but they left when I was in about year 4. By the time I got to year 6 I started to feel different, I felt like I was treated different. I wasn’t allowed to do a higher paper on my SATs, my head teacher said he didn’t think I was capable. The only difference I could see between me and the kids he did think was capable was where I had come from. My learning was the same as theirs, I was just as bright. I think that was when I started to lose interest in school, and lose trust in teachers. They were meant to be there to push me, I felt they just wanted to push me out.
Fast forward to my final year at high school.
High school was always in the background for me, I was more interested in working at weekends and in the evenings, in any job I could find. I started my own babysitting ‘business’ when I was 13 and had worked in every village pub and café by the time I was 15. My dad used to call me his little grafter (he still does sometimes). My parents said I could leave school early, but I had friends that I wanted to keep. My final year passed in a blur, I didn’t really have any teachers I spoke to, or who cared about what I did or didn’t do with my time. To say I was relieved to finish is an understatement. I never felt like I could be myself, or even who myself was.
I left school in 2007, not feeling that excited about education. I had always wanted to be out earning money. After almost ten years working in different jobs, from restaurants and bars to builders’ firms, I decided that I wanted to do a job that helped people. I didn’t even know what job I wanted. I started just googling things I enjoyed, which was mostly nutrition and healthy eating and found a job that matched it. Dietitian. I needed a degree for it, and that meant getting the equivalent of A levels, luckily colleges offer access courses, which give people that don’t have a levels (and GCSEs as well) the chance to get on the education ladder.
I’m now about to go into the final year of my degree. What’s changed from my final year of high school? Quite frankly a lot. Going into my GCSE’s I was angry at a lot of people, I didn’t trust my teachers, I didn’t think GCSE’s would get me anywhere. My last year at school I wanted out. Now, I want in! I’m sad that uni is coming to an end, I feel like I am only just starting to know what my brain is capable of. And I tell you it is a lot more than that primary school teacher thought back in the day!
Don’t get me wrong I can’t wait to be a dietitian and help people eat the right food for them, but I’m already thinking about a part-time masters to do alongside working. I’ve worked all the way through university, and I don’t think I will ever stop being a grafter, but that doesn’t mean I can’t use my brain too.