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A level dropout to award winner

Open University graduate and business owner Kerry Pace has won a Rising Star Award for her work in education and academia. The national awards recognise the achievements of women below senior management or director level – representing the female talent pipeline and the next generation of future leaders.

Kerry was nominated for her pioneering work in supporting learners with disabilities, and in breaking down barriers within the workplace through education. Having over come many of her own personal barriers, this award recognised much more than just her professional leadership.

Kerry first realised that learning was a challenge for her when she was at school. She dropped out of her A Levels to get a job. But it wasn’t until she started studying with the OU that she discovered why school had been such a struggle.

My open degree, opened doors

“I was a young carer and dropped out of my A-levels twice, before leaving home. University wasn’t really ever talked about as an option at my small village school.

“I started studying Child Development, but my degree was a mix and match of subjects and that’s what I really liked about the OU. In the end the mix of subjects that I studied meant that I could have chosen between a BA or a BSc Open degree.

“For other Open degree students that are looking at their course and trying to choose their pathway, I’d say ‘Don’t panic, you can change it’.  Think about whether you actually need a specific degree in order to do what you want to do, or is an Open degree suitable. Often people don’t realise that the Open degree is a choice.

On the whole the actual name of the qualification isn’t essential, it’s more about being able to show that you can study to a certain level.”

“It wasn’t until after I’d graduated and was working as a dyslexia tutor at a local university that I was identified as having dyspraxia and ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder). I’d read one of my client’s reports before meeting them, and couldn’t believe how much of that person was me! I spoke to a colleague and she agreed with me. I’d developed so many coping mechanisms over the years that the dyspraxia hadn’t been picked up before.

Pioneering support methods

“I’ve since set up a business, Diverse Learners, which provides disability support and training for the healthcare sector and healthcare education. I offer specialist study skills tuition and mental health mentoring support. I support students at university and people in the work place.

“All of my support is offered via Skype. I’ve pioneered this way of delivering the support in the evenings and at weekends, which helps those who can only access the one to one support they need when everywhere is ordinarily closed.

“If you have a disability you can apply for government funding called Disabled Students Allowances. They allocate you a tutor and so many hours of support for your course. That looks at organisation, time management, structuring, decoding what the hell the essay is asking you for, the structure of your writing, reading techniques which a lot of people who have a disability find quite challenging.

“To anyone thinking of starting an OU course, I’d say absolutely do it. You can think of 99 reasons not to but you only need 1 reason to do it.”

Support for OU Students

For more information on the support available to OU students with a disability, please see the Supporting Students with Disabilities page, and the Disability Support page in the OU Help Centre.

Applications for The Carers Scholarship Fund opens in Spring 2020. For further information and about donating to the scheme, please visit

About Author

Liz works in the Media Relations team within the Communications Unit at The Open University. She has over 15 years' marketing experience working across a range of sectors, from diamonds to shampoo. She has a BSc (Hons) in Management from UMIST. In her spare time, Liz is usually found on roller skates or off travelling, having adventures.

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