BTEC Health and Social Student of the Year 2017, Jay Bradley, talks about his personal experience of studying a BTEC at school, and how it helped him to progress on to become a university student.
Hello, my name is Jay Bradley, 18, and I’m currently studying at university. Before this, I studied a BTEC in Health and Social Care, an Extended Diploma at Malton School in rural North Yorkshire, which was amazing.
During my BTEC, I carried out voluntary work at a local primary school, St Mary's Roman Catholic School, which then fed into a three week placement, a requirement for the course. From there I continued to attend my placement and accrued over 600 hours of experience, when it was only a requirement to complete 100. When applying for volunteering work I was very excited to start learning, but it wasn’t all excitement. Before I started my work experience I was very nervous and anxious, but these nerves were quickly put to rest once I started doing the one thing I loved – helping others and making a difference.
My placement led me into things I never thought I could do, and allowed me to do things I never knew I could… it was amazing! I took on responsibility for groups of children and took charge of activities that I had planned myself – it was just like being a teacher and it gave me a fantastic first-hand experience.
Each week I would look forward to my placement and each time I went I loved it more because of the challenges it gave me. I guess you’re wondering what I took away from my placement, which was: treat those you care for as an individual, respect and believe them, reassure and guide them and be the best you can be, but most of all – smile because if you smile, they smile.
I took away an understanding of how education is planned and how time is managed, how passion is inserted into work and how work can be delivered to the best quality. After I completed the 100 mandatory hours of my work placement and it was no longer mandatory for my BTEC course to carry it on, the love I had for those I worked with and the work I did drove my passion forward to complete another 500 hours. It also extended my knowledge of health and social care further and supplied me with a greater range of experience, which was another a reason to keep going with my placement.
Once I completed my BTEC qualification and achieved 3 Distinction* grades, I applied to university, although this was something that didn’t come easy. My grades didn’t come easily as many personal obstacles jumped out. I was six when I was diagnosed with ADHD, which was my main struggle - I’m not a ‘natural’ academic. I had to push harder than ever before and put in time I didn’t think I had, but I could see the end and I could see what I was achieving – and I saw this through my placement.
My teachers and my family were the most amazing people to stand by me whilst I was studying at school. The results and grades I got still don’t seem real, and I’m thankful for those experiences I had on my placement and at school. I’m so proud of myself – and that’s a feeling everyone wants to achieve.
I applied to York St John’s (YSJ) University and was accepted with an unconditional offer. This felt surreal – in fact I had to reload the website repeatedly to make sure it wasn’t a mistake! A state of total shock, relief and joy infected all around me – it was by far one of the best times in my educational journey. Celebrating after this great news started with those that had supported me. It’s the best being able to celebrate your achievements with those that have helped you get there!
Knowing I was now 100% going to university after the summer was great but also one of the scariest times ever. All of this was solely based on my achievements from my post 16 education, the experience in and out of my placement and my overall qualifications.
I’m now studying an undergraduate degree in Children, Young People and Families with Special Educational Needs and Inclusion at YSJ and my aim is to become a social worker within the Children’s Disability Social Work team. This is my dream career, something I’ve always wanted to do, but had accepted I’d never be able to achieve because of various reasons and personal setbacks – but this all changed when I found BTECs. In the future, I want to manage my own team of professionals and work amongst some of the most inspirational yet challenging young people. I feel this is the right place for me.
If you are thinking about doing a similar course to myself, my advice would be to go for it! If I hadn't done a BTEC I wouldn’t be in the position I am now. I’ve gained so much experience and extra qualifications through my placement and my BTEC course. And to those who are thinking of a similar career path, this job is so rewarding and no two days are ever the same. Go for it and achieve great things! Maximise your time and make use of every minute, because those are the most precious times you get. Be ready and enthusiastic, ask questions and put yourself out there, dream big and achieve bigger!