Thursday, 18 October 2012

A Late Night Delivery and my OU story

Not what you expect at 10pm, but last night, just as the BBC news was starting, two young men from Dewsbury tried to deliver a mattress to us - now this wasn't entirely unexpected, as we had ordered one, however it was supposed to come on Thursday or Friday, and I would have assumed during daylight hours!

Unfortunately when they fetched it from the van it was only 3' wide and we had ordered a double so after some faffing about with ebay and delivery notes they agreed someone had made a mistake and put it back on their van.  So today, instead of going to the Thurnscoe Local History Day, I am sat here waiting to see if they reappear ...

It does give me a chance to get on with the first TMA for my latest Open University module, "Understanding Global Heritage".  So far I've written some notes - an essay plan if you prefer - and that's come to 837 words ... I've only got 1000 to play with so some drastic cutting will be needed. 

I said I'd tell the story of my OU study (can you spot prevarication coming on?):

Back in 1993 or thereabouts I was told by the mother (AM) of a then partner that one of my family names, my great grandmother's maiden name, Moderate, was very unusual.  AM had recently studied DA301, an Open University course in "Family and Community History in the 19th and 20th Centuries", and she lent me her course books to read.  As a consequence of this I investigated the OU and found that people on benefits, who did not have a degree, could study for a nominal sum per module, around £50 if I remember correctly.  And that my Radiography Diploma (gained in the early 90s) was worth 180 credit points or half a degree so I would only need to study a few modules to be awarded a full OU Open degree.  I applied but the funding was limited and so I had to wait for a place until 1998.  In the meantime I started haunting the Archives in Sheffield whilst the children were at school (well, it saved on gas and electric at home too) researching their paternal family history.  It wasn't so easy to do my own as my family is from Durham and Northumberland, but with my mum's help we did make a start sending for a steady trickle of birth marriage and death certificates.

I really enjoyed my first course, DA301 as AM had done, including going to Leeds for the tutorials and meeting other people who were older than average students but still very keen to study to gain a qualification.  The course was my first introduction to writing academically and it taught me to use sources properly.  It had the additional benefit of getting me involved with the Heeley History Workshop (but that's another story ...).

I continued for the next few years with:

AA303 Understanding comparative history: Britain and America from 1760 (2000)
A427 Charles Booth and social investigation in Britain 1850-1914 (1999)
A425 Evangelicals, women and community in nineteenth-century Britain (1999)

The Charles Booth and Evangelicals courses were 30 points each, DA301 and AA303 were 60 points so by the end of 2000 I had accumulated the required 180 extra points for my degree.  Myself, my mum and dad and my two children proudly attended a graduation ceremony at Harrogate in early 2001 and the picture of me in an academic gown with a scroll (fake photo prop!) still has pride of place on top of my dining room cupboard.

So why am I still studying with the OU now I hear you ask?  As a consequence of getting a First (oh, yes I didn't mention that - absolutely amazing, really good marks in DA301 and AA303 and I got my picture in the local paper too!) I was offered a fee waiver for a part time MPhil at Sheffield University researching the development of the community in Heeley, Sheffield.  It was going to be based on analysis of the census returns (the 1891 was the most recent in those days) and family reconstitution from the parish records of Christchurch, Heeley.  While waiting for the confirmation of this place to come through I additionally studied a distance course with Oxford University, the "Advanced diploma in local history via the internet" which I also got a fee reduction for and we attended a lovely presentation ceremony in Oxford. I really felt my life had changed direction and that amazing things were happening.  BUT ... I was still claiming benefits as a single parent and soon my daughter was officially old enough not to require adult supervision and I was directed by the DSS (remember them - the Department of Social Security) to get a job 'tout suite' or risk having my money stopped.  The fact that I was studying at a prestigious University did not deter them - they weren't going to support me now I was 'available for work'. 

I was lucky enough to get a part time job at Sheffield Hallam University (SHU),in October 2001 and with the new Child Tax Credits we were slightly better off than we had been on benefits.  It soon became apparent that I couldn't work, care for my family and do research and I had to withdraw from the MPhil after two years.  So in 2003 now with a full time job at SHU I applied again to the OU to do a dramatically different kind of study.

But that's enough for now.  The guilt pangs are stabbing - I must revisit that TMA!
Bye for now.

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