Although all of our students are dedicated and hardworking, Andrew Rathbone from Cannock in Staffordshire takes the crown for his sheer commitment to learning and will to succeed. Having left college with little confidence but always up for a challenge, Andrew began working for West Midlands Police as a control room supervisor, where 999 calls are received and emergency services are dispatched. It was here that Andrew realised his ultimate dream: to become a paramedic. The problem? He didn’t quite have the grades to make it happen. We spoke to Andrew about how distance learning with Oxbridge changed his life, and set him on the path him to achieving his ultimate goal.

A difficult start

Lots of students come to us after struggling with the one-size-fits-all approach of traditional schooling, and Andrew was no exception. He explains, “I wasn’t the cleverest student at school, I hated it and felt I couldn’t concentrate there. There was so much pressure, and there’s no room for individuality – if you don’t learn at the same pace as everyone else, you’re considered a failure.” After leaving school, Andrew attended college to study public services, but didn’t enjoy it. This is when he discovered distance learning. He continued, “I first completed a teaching assistant course with ICS Learn. I found studying from home in my own time at my own pace a lot less stressful, especially when it was a subject I was interested in. I was still working at the dispatch centre during this time, and I began to realise that my heart wasn’t in teaching – I wanted to become a paramedic. I loved the idea of helping people, and making a real difference.”

The first steps to success

Although Andrew had his goals figured out, he first needed to gain English and maths qualifications. This was when Andrew found us! “I saw that Oxbridge offered all the courses I needed. I called them up, and the course advisers were so friendly and helpful, they told me everything I needed to know. I already knew distance learning was the way to go for me, so I signed up immediately. I wanted to get my qualifications quickly as I worked as well, and this would be a much faster option than going to college one day a week. I absolutely loved the flexibility of it.” Andrew signed up for English and maths functional skills at level two, which are the equivalent of GCSEs at grade 4 (a C in Scotland, or in the old grading system). Like Andrew, many adult learners much prefer this option over sitting their GCSEs all over again!

Andrew studied hard to achieve his functional skills maths qualification

Studying hard!

“As soon as I enrolled, I couldn’t wait to receive my courses. I felt such a surge of determination, knowing my end goal was finally in sight”, Andrew told us. “However, I was a little worried about the challenge, because of the experience I’d had at school. I needn’t have worried, though; my English tutor Jade Woolley was amazing, and always on hand to offer guidance and encourage me when I found something particularly difficult. After I’d finished English, it was time for maths! Like most people, at school I found maths boring, but to my surprise, I absolutely loved it. My tutor Carol Chapman really stepped up, always marking my assignments quickly.” A unique student in many ways, Carol remembered Andrew’s struggles. She told us, “When speaking with Andrew, his sheer determination really shone through, and that’s what motivated him. I could tell he was low on confidence, however, he was much more capable than he believed. When his assignments came through, I was really impressed. He’s an intelligent guy.” Not content with everything he’d achieved so far, Andrew also enrolled on the NCFE CACHE certificate in Health and Social Care. “I liked the idea of finding out a bit more about the human body”, Andrew explains, “I was also interested in how vulnerable people are protected by safeguarding. This course gave me a great insight into both.”

Some students struggle to keep themselves motivated with distance learning. There’s no set classes to attend, so it’s all up to them to create a timetable and allocate study time alongside their regular working hours and other responsibilities. However, Andrew had this all figured out. He explains, “I first worked out how many questions or essays I had to do, and then broke these down into more manageable targets that I could complete each day, and I made sure I stuck to it, no matter what. The key is to make sure you’re not distracted – sit in a room without your phone or a TV, so you’re not tempted by anything else. I locked myself away, and made sure everyone knew I was studying”

New challenges

Having completed his functional skills qualifications along with health and social care, Andrew was armed with new self-confidence, and ready to take on yet more studying! “In order for more opportunities to be available for me as a paramedic, I needed a qualification at level three. I chose to complete the NCFE accredited Diploma in Human Resources, as this is something I’ve always had an interest in. Level three qualifications are the equivalent of an A-level, so this made me nervous – never in my life did I see myself achieving that kind of qualification! Again, Carol was there to encourage me and tell me I could do it.”

Andrew in his new uniform

That’s not to say it was all plain sailing. As Andrew began studying for his diploma, he was furloughed from work. He explains, “I really love my job, so this was tough. However, it did give me a great opportunity to really crack on with my course. I was completing an assignment a day, some days two! I did feel sorry for Carol, as her workload must have shot up! Within four months, I’d finished the course and everything was submitted and ready for marking. Unfortunately, the pandemic also slowed down my certificates, but Carol and the office team helped chase them and provided some additional evidence I could use in my paramedic training application, so it didn’t slow me down.”

Now that Andrew has completed all his qualifications, the future is looking bright. On the 31st January, he sat down and filled in his application form for the West Midlands Ambulance student paramedic scheme, and soon after received word that he’d been accepted. He told us, “Now my qualifications are being checked, then it’ll be time for medical and physical assessments. I’m so excited to be in the position to follow my dreams.”

Finally, we asked Andrew what advice he has for anyone considering distance learning with Oxbridge. “My advice would be to follow your dreams! Make a plan of what you want to achieve, and then find a way to do it. Sometimes you have to make sacrifices, but it will be worth it in the end. Stay focused and determined, and have faith in yourself. Use your tutor support – there’s a wealth of knowledge there, so there’s no need to ever struggle alone! Lastly, don’t let anyone ever tell you that you can’t do it. Be the master of your own destiny”

Fancy changing your life through distance learning? Check out our range of courses, or give one of our experienced course advisers a call on 0121 630 3000.