My Dad, The Educator

02 Oct 15

My dad always told me 'Education gives you choices" and it's true.  He meant it both in what you learnt at school, and what you learnt about the world.  I went to a really great school in South Wales that was supportive and helpful, and didn't treat me any differently from anyone who wasn't a wheelchair user.  To get there was a difficult and challenging route.  I was paralysed by the age of seven and then I should have been taken out of 'mainstream' school and sent to a 'special' school where really I was just going to be kept busy until I could leave. There was no expectation of doing any / many exams

Back then, my Dad had to fight the system to make sure that I got a good education.  Growing up I thought that because I was in a wheelchair that it was hard to get access to good schooling.  As I grew up I realised that the reality is that it can be hard for a lot of people to get the right education that they should have.  My Dad also told me that it would be hard to get a decent job as a wheelchair user, and that I had to get the best education I could.  For me that meant going to Loughborough University (where I studied Politics but also played a lot of sport).  That led me to being an athlete (with a few jobs in sport along the way), and then going in to Politics.  Today it also means that I am going to be inaugurated as Chancellor of Northumbria University.

My Dad would have been proud, he died 5 years ago and I am sorry that he is not going to be there,  but I am fairly convinced that he also would have said 'Really!!!  They are going to let you give away degrees'.  He had a knack of saying things like that.  I also have a few friends attending who I am sure will say something similar.    There are moments when I really wish my Mum and Dad could be around, just so I can say, in a nice way, 'even though I never tidied my room, and I was a horrible teenager, and you got annoyed at me, I am OK.  I have done OK'.  He still would have teased me about it.  I wouldn't mind saying that to a few of my lecturers as well

So I am privileged to be part of that process and part of an institution that cares about it's students, and thinks not just the process of getting a degree but how it is used as the building blocks for everything else you do