Jenni Pirrett
SWAP Access to Health 2012-13 North Glasgow College
The Open University - Forensic Psychology (3rd year)
Hi folks, I’m Jenni, a 36-year-old bubbly and outgoing former SWAP student from Lanarkshire. I am very family orientated and like to have a laugh and help others. I’m also a proud godmother.  I’m a big James Bond fan (my favs - Sean Connery and Goldfinger!), I like to watch psychological thriller movies and am interested in Scottish Criminology. I’m also a student living her dream thanks to the doors that SWAP opened for me. I studied SWAP Access to Health at North Glasgow College (Glasgow Kelvin College) and am now in 3rd year studying psychology with the Open University. I have had health problems and learning difficulties from childhood. I suffer from epilepsy and diabetes and have had many health struggles over the years. During SWAP I was diagnosed with dyslexia and dyscalculia, although of course these difficulties were present from my early years. I never let anything keep me down though! I hope you enjoy reading my story.  

School years and post-school

School was always challenging for me, academically because I was never diagnosed with learning difficulties whilst at school and socially, as I was bullied. It is understandable that I didn’t enjoy my school years at all. I have always had a resilient and positive spirit, so I didn’t let things hold me back or get me down for long. When I left school, I worked in a hairdresser before going to Australia with my family. When I returned, I found work as an office junior in a lawyer’s office and attended college, gaining an NC in office technology in 2002.

I’ve always been fond of babysitting for friends and family (hence why I am a godparent) and wanted to gain a qualification to work with children. After a while, I decided to change career and I completed an NC in Childcare and Education. During the course I developed a particular interest in psychology, as it captured my interest most of all. Although the academic work was challenging, finding the subject that fascinated me helped my learning. I also realised that I had been interested in psychology all along whilst working in the lawyer’s office, albeit criminal psychology. This buddied up well with my outside interests in James Bond and local criminology; for example, the Peter Manuel murders that occurred in Lanarkshire during the 1950s. I found that this type of psychology was called Forensic Psychology and I then started to learn about this and general psychology in my own time. My ambitions were starting to take shape and I decided that I wanted to study psychology at university level. I knew it wouldn’t be a straightforward path as I still struggled with certain aspects of learning and written communication, but I knew that my strengths, determination and passion for the subject would help me on my way.  

My SWAP year

I discovered SWAP by researching access to university and was accepted for SWAP Access to Health at North Glasgow College in 2012. I was interviewed and taught by Tricia McGowan, who I still think fondly of today. SWAP for me was the best possible experience I could have had to get me started on my road to Higher Education. I thoroughly enjoyed the year and would recommend it to anybody. It inspired confidence in me that I could progress and pursue my dreams. It was during mt SWAP year that I was diagnosed with dyslexia and dyscalculia after discussing my difficulties with tutors and Lisa from SWAP.  I was then put in touch with Margaret Laird from Learner Support at the college, who was just fantastic. She arranged for my dyslexia and dyscalculia assessments, all the support I needed and liaised with the tutors. I could also just go to her for a chat, which I often did and this helped lots! I also received excellent support and encouragement from Lisa and Kenny from SWAP, whom I am still in touch with all these years down the line. Both Lisa and Kenny helped me with my progression from SWAP and have encouraged me throughout my adult education, for which I am very grateful! Through SWAP I also met and received great advice from a former SWAP student mentor called Robert Jenner.  Robert has dyslexia and had graduated with a degree in Learning Difficulties nursing. He was inspirational and was even kind enough to take me to a dyslexia event in Oban.


On getting diagnosed with learning difficulties

If you think you have learning difficulties, take steps towards getting diagnosed, for me it was vital to me understanding my difficulties in my prior education, identifying my needs and gaining access to invaluable support. Studying would be so much more difficult without diagnosis.  

Post-SWAP studies

I did pass SWAP but didn’t receive the grades to go straight to university, however, the doors were now wide open to other opportunities that would suit me better. It was recommended I study HNC or do an evening course at university. This in hindsight was for the best as my learning curve had been slow due to having to fill the gaps in my learning from school as well as studying new material. Immediately after SWAP, in the summer of 2013, I completed First Steps to University at University of the West of Scotland, Hamilton Campus. Jane O’Rorke was very helpful and the tutors were lovely. I learned much from this experience, but needed more preparation for higher education. Next, I enrolled in some evening short courses at the university of Strathclyde’s Centre for Lifelong Learning. I studied introductory psychology courses and to my delight, they had a module in Forensic Psychology! I also studied Strathclyde’s Access Programme, but did not feel ready to start studying full time at this point due to many reasons, including my health and personal circumstances.  

On taking the less direct route to a degree

Taking a less direct path to studying at degree level has helped me get to grips with my difficulties and has given me the time I needed to develop knowledge, skills and strategies. If you are not quite ready for the direct route to university, take time to consider alternatives and the best way forward for you – where there is a will, there is a way!  

Open University experience

It was then I researched the Open University and found I could study part time using the SAAS part-time fee fund. I started my Forensic Psychology degree with the OU in 2015 and haven’t looked back since! It has been a wonderful experience and the support I have received has been absolutely amazing. The part-time pace of study is perfect for me, I can easily manage the deadlines, and the relaxed approach is good for keeping my health in check. I have a personal tutor who provides additional support called Katy Hawker, who is nothing short of phenomenal.  She has much experience of working with students with learning difficulties and so understands my needs and helps build my confidence and abilities. She is exceptionally friendly, approachable and helpful. She makes me feel valued, comfortable and adds so much to my learning experience. I call her ‘mother hen’ and tell her she is part of my family :). Katy goes above and beyond and even visited me in hospital so I could submit my first-year dissertation. I enjoy learning OU style, which includes completing learning at home, attending tutorials at Glasgow Caledonian University, receiving phone calls and emails from tutors, completing written assignments (TMAs – tutor marked assessments) and completing examinations online. The OU app is so useful and I can access all my learning from there on my tablet or laptop. Subjects I have studied so far include Sociology, Investigating Psychology and Living Psychology - from the Everyday to the Extraordinary. This year I am looking forward to Forensic Psychology modules! I also enjoy my sessions with Katy, of course, and have benefited greatly from the time I have spent with her, both academically and personally.  THANK YOU SO MUCH KATY!!!  


Hopes for the future

Now the completion of my degree is in sight, I intend on doing as well as possible in my final years of Open University. Beyond that, I would like to find work within criminology or forensic psychology. I am looking forward to the next chapters in my life but will always remember and be thankful for SWAP helping me to start my path to realising my dream of graduating with a Forensic Psychology degree. Thank you SWAP! I would recommend SWAP Access Programmes to anyone!  

On making the most of life

I never let anything hold me back!  I enjoy being very active in my community and volunteer for charities and get involved in charity fundraisers. I have abseiled from the Forth Road Bridge, participated in runs and marathons and zip-lined across the river Clyde!  I am also involved in my community by helping out with events like fireworks night. I also am in the local cycling club and like to explore beautiful Lanarkshire where I live. I have worked in security and have my Security Industry Authority Qualification. I was a Commonwealth Games volunteer in 2014 and also worked in Security at the recent European Championships in Glasgow. SWAP and all my experiences since have taught me that if you have the determination to succeed, there will be a way for you to do it. If you get involved, take action and persevere you will get there, you can do it, regardless of the challenges in life you face. 
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