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University’s support during darkest hour inspires graduate to join staff team

Date 13.06.2016

Harry Barrett has never forgotten the support he received from the University when he was diagnosed with a spinal tumour during his second year – and he’s now returning the favour, by helping students with special educational needs.

Harry became a student at the University of Northampton in 2007, and although he chose to study Law and Criminology, while studying he discovered a new passion for education. “Education became a big part of my life, and teaching was an easy choice to make after I graduated from the University,” he said.

During the second year of his degree, Harry was re-diagnosed with a spinal cord tumour. He had been first diagnosed with cancer of the spine when he was 10 years old and underwent surgery to remove the tumour; twelve years later the tumour reappared in the same place.

“Throughout my treatment I managed to stay on the course and complete my second year, albeit with a far lower than expected grade,” he explained. “I was given the option of starting my degree again, but I chose against this. I feel the support my tutors gave me during this period and the resilience I showed enabled me to stay on and complete that year, and thus my degree.”

“Needing A grades across the board to achieve a 2:1 degree classification required lots of determination, patience and support from my tutors, and after a lot of hard work, I managed to get the 2:1 classification,” said Harry. “The staff at the University of Northampton were like nothing I had experienced before: kind, approachable and compassionate.” At graduation, Harry was awarded the Max Engel scholarship in recognition of his hard work.

After graduating, Harry entered the teaching profession, teaching law in a secondary school. “While working I studied for a SENCO qualification which enabled me to lead an inclusion department and manage the provision for special need students. Having completed this degree in 2015, I decided to leave secondary teaching and focus on the next part of my career – and I am now working at the University of Northampton as an ASSIST Specialist Support Tutor, supporting students with special educational needs.”

“I know that I’ll spend the rest of my career within an educational setting, albeit in a support role, teaching role or leadership role. The intrinsic rewards that teaching has brought me are something which always draws me into continuing to provide an educational provision to students.”

The University’s Additional Student Support and Inclusion Services Team (ASSIST) works to promote equal opportunities and help disabled students to achieve their full potential.  ASSIST provides support for students with physical and sensory impairments, mental health difficulties, medical conditions, Autistic spectrum disorders and specific learning difficulties – for example dyslexia.

As an ASSIST Specialist Tutor, Harry works to support students through their academic studies, by helping with things such as essay writing and planning. “The literacy skills I gained at the university as a student are now helping me to assist those students who require additional support,” he explained.

If you are a student who requires assistance, of if you would like to find out more iformation regarding the ASSIST team, visit the website.