Mother and Son set to graduate together from Newman University

Updated on: 23/10/2017

Helen Ward and her son Reuben Field are set to graduate together this autumn as they both complete their qualifications in education studies at Newman University.

Helen felt inspired when visiting the University open day with her son, who will be graduating with a First Class Honours in English and Education Studies, and decided to study towards an MA Education alongside him.

Already working within the education sector as a Head of Year and Teacher of English, Helen had been keen to gain her Masters qualification for a while and says she hasn’t looked back since signing up.

Reuben decided to study at Newman University as he felt that the local university would be ideal for him as he was already working as a Maths, English, 11+ and French tutor as well as being a commissioned performance poet, and therefore needed to juggle his existing commitments with his education. Reuben was also able to take advantage of Newman’s generous bursary scheme and felt the university was the perfect choice for a career within the education sector: "[Newman] is nationally renowned for good quality courses that prepare teachers and those passionate about education, with a high employability rate, so I wanted to graduate with a degree that would be held in high regard in my current and continued line of work as a provider of education. In addition, and perhaps most importantly, when attending the open evening at Newman, I had a thoroughly engaging conversation with the education department staff, and felt certain that Newman would be the right environment for me."

Some may think that university is a place for those studying to escape their lives at home, however, not for this duo. Helen comments "I think we both found the situation very amusing but it could have been a disaster! Either, I was trampling all over his territory or our competitive streak (I didn’t really realise I have one!) could have meant that either one of us would become demoralised if we felt we weren’t doing so well as the other. As it was, it was great to compare notes, share experiences of our fantastic tutors and discuss our reading and new knowledge with each other. It was also good fun to meet on campus and chat over something in common across the age gap, usually costing me at least a large Americano and hot Panini from Starbucks! I genuinely would not have made it through if Reuben had not insisted I could do this and it was worth sticking with."

Reuben added "Honestly, I thought it was quite exciting as, I believe, it is not a particularly common occurrence. With Mum completing her Master’s in education, we were able to have many lively discussions about the inspirational tutors who lectured us both and the new knowledge we were attempting to get to grips with; ultimately, bouncing ideas off each other really helped me be excited about my work."

Both Helen and Reuben excelled whilst studying at Newman and Helen was able to present her research at a number of conferences, publish her first article as well as a mini-book and achieve an overall distinction. Reuben, who will be graduating with a first class honours, was able to write a ten minute collection of six poems for an education module assignment which he then performed at The Roundhouse, Camden as the winner of BBC Radio 1Xtra’s competition whilst studying at Newman. Reuben was also encouraged to perform and lead lectures on poetry as well as present his work to first year students and offer them with exciting ways they could engage in their university assignments.

Both Helen and Reuben speak highly of their tutors at Newman, Reuben commented "With all sincerity, my tutors were nothing short of excellent; they encouraged me to think and work outside of the box, argued and debated with me to develop my critical approach, and gave me feedback and guidance that always helped me to produce work I am genuinely proud of."

Helen added "Staff at Newman are utterly supportive, always interested in whatever angle I wanted to take, highly knowledgeable and dedicated to ensuring I was successful in my studies. This ranged from providing detailed reading lists, spontaneous, highly academic debate, answering my emails at the drop of a hat, and, ultimately, taking the risk to put their name alongside mine in print."

Reuben and Helen will be attending Newman University’s graduation ceremony on Thursday 26th October at Birmingham’s Symphony Hall and both are looking forward to their ceremonies.

Helen admits that two generations graduating on the same day is not a usual occurrence but feels it will add to the individual celebration.

Helen now hopes to be able to lecture at Newman University and complete her PhD; she is currently writing a book of short stories for adults and would like to publish the book once it is complete. Helen also has hopes of making contact with Sir Lenny Henry to be able to share her dissertation findings with him and work with him to effect developments for disadvantaged pupils in Birmingham.

As for Reuben, he is set to complete his PGDipEd in Secondary Mathematics before gaining his Master’s qualification. Reuben also plans to complete his PhD whilst working as a Secondary School Maths teacher with long term aspirations to become a published author and is currently completing his latest commissioned work for BBC Radio 1Xtra.

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