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Meet the two West Midlands students inspiring young adults

PROUD: Rio Lecointe says he was initially disappointed with his results – but is going to university

DESPITE RECEIVING good news after taking their A-level exams, a pair of West Midlands students and aspiring psychologists have taken time out to offer advice to those who had not done as well or are put off by the financial and emotional pressure that today’s higher and further education students could face.

Saskia Hayman from Birmingham and Walsall’s Rio Lecointe are university-bound, after leaving Arthur Terry School and King Edward VI Aston School. The 3 A grades Saskia, 18, obtained in psychology, English language and drama have clinched her place at nearby Aston University to study psychology and marketing.

“I originally wanted to do drama (at university), but when I started doing psychology at A-level, I found that I really liked it. I want to go into occupational psychology – but I keep changing my mind!”

Reflecting on the economic burden pursuing further education can place on families, Saskia, called for greater account to be given to those pressures. “I worked while I studied but, although it helped my mum out with expenses, I didn’t have to,” she said.

“I am not someone that can sit down and do nothing, so I worked out of my own choice, but I know that some students would need nancial support when they are studying.

“Also, we got quite a lot of help – the psychology teacher wrote the textbook we used, so we got them for free and other teachers bought coursework books for us. One of my teachers thought working while studying would be a distraction for me but it actually helped.”

In fact, Saskia’s time away from the books led her to reveal a factor in her success and provide food for thought for others: “I realised during a difficult time on the course that I actually really needed to give myself a break from studying all of the time.”

PRESSURE

Despite being regarded a standout student since doing her SATs and obtaining two A*s and six As in her GCSEs, Saskia admitted to having felt the pressure of expectation at A-level almost too much to bear.


Saskia Hayman

“I had a bit of a breakdown and it lasted for about two months. I felt the studies were too hard and I couldn’t cope. My teachers helped me but I also have really good friends that I could talk to if I didn’t want to talk to teachers. It is important for students to have a social life and a good network.”

If Rio Le-cointe, also 18, has his way in a few years he will be part of the backroom staff as a psychologist at his beloved Arsenal Football Club. Speaking on the exam process, he said: “It’s impossible not to feel pressure but the main thing to remember is that all is not lost for those who haven’t done as well as they would like to have done, and that life is not all over. Just don’t give up!”

Although B, B and C grades for psychology, biology and history have earned Rio a place at London’s Brunel University to study sports psychology, he admits that he hadn’t done as well as he expected himself.

“I have high expectations of myself and initially I was disappointed, but I recognised that I am still going to university and can achieve my dreams. Every student should think about what’s best for them, not panic, take things in stages and look at the options.

“Who says a degree is the best route for them? If they are more a practical person, maybe an apprenticeship would be better. Perhaps they could think about doing a type of work that could enhance their CV.”

Rio reserved some advice for black students in particular: “Don’t go into anything thinking that you are lesser to anyone else, be brave and do not think that it is particularly easy for someone else, because they are from particular school or background.

“I went to a grammar school, but there were only two black students out of 150 students in the sixth form there. If people only knew how many times my woolly head was touched without my permission – but we kept working hard.”

Rio’s proud mother Tracey 9, added: “I wouldn’t want to be a young person going through exams now – it’s a lot different to our day. As parents, it’s important to help our children build a good skill set and a sense of well- being, not just to prepare for their studies but for lives.

“We must encourage our children to try things out of their comfort zone so they don’t particularly feel out of place doing anything, whether its golf, swimming or whatever they want to do. I think this has built Rio’s confidence."

Despite being an educator herself, as an assistant principal and a specialist Biology teacher at Birmingham’s King Solomon International Busi- ness School, Tracey claimed not to have felt any extra pressure for Rio to achieve.

BREAK

She said: “(His father and I) want to ensure we offer him (and our other son) the support they need and to remove any excuse for them not to try. It’s all about knowing our kids and what they need – sometimes it’s a kick up the bum, other times to take a break.

“We are so proud of Rio – he’s done well.”

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