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Celebrating Vocational Learning in Wales – Saffron Herbert

Saffron Herbert

The recent College of the Future (@CollegeComm) report for Wales has emphasised the importance of access to lifelong learning in Wales, alongside the rest of the UK. Vocational learning is an essential part of this landscape, equipping learners with practical skills and knowledge to get them ready for their career, and enabling them to upskill throughout their working lives.

We spoke to Saffron Herbert, a BTEC Health and Social Care alumnus from Neath College who is now studying paediatric nursing at The University of West England in Bristol.

September of 2018 is when I first started the BTEC Health and Social Care Level 3 course at Neath College. From the beginning, my intent was to always become a qualified paediatric nurse.

The first year of college was very different from comprehensive school as the course was assignment based. However, this was one of the main reasons why I chose to carry out the course. I enjoyed carrying out assignment-based work over the end of year exams as I felt that the exam pressure and revision were not intended for me. Over the two years on the course, I carried out many different placements including; working in a care home, a crèche and in a school. I very much enjoyed my placements throughout the year especially the ones which involved working with children as looking after children is my passion and future intent.

“Looking after children is my passion”

The placements which I carried out gave me a lot of experience of what it was like to work in the real world, some days were challenging but also great fun. After a year of extremely hard work and preparation, I achieved two distinctions.

As it came to the second year of the course, the work started to get harder and become more challenging, however, with the support from my tutor and other college lecturers it made it easier to face the challenges and complete the work. Since the first year, I knew that I wanted to become a paediatric nurse, so when it came to choosing career options I already had chosen which made it easier from me.

From the help of my tutor, I was able to research into different universities and courses to see which one best suited me. I applied for five different universities with Swansea in my mind for my first choice. However, I know that becoming a paediatric nurse can be very hard as it is a competitive course to get on as there are only a short amount of spaces. In order to try and get a space in university, I started to prepare very early on. With the help from my tutor and the college, I was able to write my personal statement ready for each university I applied for. Shortly after I had done this I was offered interviews for all universities. I was over the moon by this as I was not expecting to hear back from all of them as I know how hard it is to get an interview for paediatric nursing.

In order to get a place on the university’s courses, I needed to come out with DDM after the second year. This meant I worked extremely hard so I could achieve these grades. I prepared a lot for each interview, whilst also carrying out practise interviews with my tutor in college. After visiting each university, I had now changed my mind of where I wanted to study children’s nursing, my intent was now to study at The University of West England. My interview there went extremely well and I loved the university, shortly after I was offered a conditional place dependant on my grades. To ensure I achieved those grades for the rest of year two I worked extremely hard and I was very determined throughout the year. After completing year two I have achieved three distinctions, which I am over the moon about as I received a firm offer to start at Bristol University. In September 2020 I started a paediatric nursing degree in The University of West England. All the hard work, determination and support from my tutor and lecturers at NPTC Group of Colleges has definitely paid off.

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