RNC – From the eyes of a mother

The photo is taken from the back of a large meeting room and shows people sitting on chairs in rows in the audience. At the front of the room Laura Hughes is at the front, behind a stand speaking to the audience and she has a couple of pieces of paper in her hand.

At RNC, as a residential college, we often talk about the journey our students go through when they come and study with us. Most will live in our halls of residence and many will be living away from home for the first time where they will get to meet a bunch of new people, learn new things, join in with a range of new activities and take advantage of all the new opportunities presented to them. But have you ever wondered what it’s like for that student’s family? Read the piece below which Laura Hughes, mother of Tiri, read out at our New Student Conference last weekend.


“A year ago, our family were here, like you are today, at the RNC new student conference, and I was feeling pretty nervous about what the year ahead had in store for our daughter, Tiri.

Despite a good start in an excellent local primary school, it would be fair to say that Tiri’s experience of secondary school was pretty grim. She at times received less than half her work in a large print format on time for lessons and spent an industrial amount of time in the school library with a teaching assistant having to have work read aloud to her – an isolating experience and a very poor use of school resources.

Eventually, after unsuccessfully pursuing all channels, we had no choice but to take the school to a Disability Discrimination Tribunal Hearing. After this, whilst Tiri then received at least most of her school work in an accessible format; we still had to get all her revision material transcribed. Additionally other factors such as sports provision were extremely poor and all of Tiri’s sports achievements were obtained outside of school.


It became pretty clear that Tiri would not be staying at this school for 6th form and after visiting RNC, as well as some local colleges; Tiri told us that she definitely wanted to come to RNC to complete her school education.

Of course we were very nervous – years of poor educational provision had made me pretty jaded about just about everything. I had no idea if RNC would be able to meet Tiri’s educational or sporting needs, her pastoral needs, her need for mobility, Braille and Independent Living and … did I really want to entrust my precious daughter to a bunch of strangers 160 miles away from home??? No, not really.

But several visits to RNC and one determined daughter later, last September we said a tearful goodbye (well I was tearful anyway!) as we left her in her new room in Campbell Hall at RNC.

I cannot believe since then that a whole year has flown by and what a year it has been! During that time I can honestly say that not only have I had a single, not even tiny, complaint about any aspect of Tiri’s education or care, but on the contrary, both education and care have been exemplary.


Tiri is taking 4 A levels over 3 years We have been so pleased with the educational support – she has been taught her Maths A level here in the college and her Chemistry down the road at Hereford 6th form college, again with excellent support from RNC. Next year she will add in Biology and Psychology, both taught here at the college.  She has just sat her AS levels and is predicted As in both exams.

And from what I hear from her friends, those studying other A levels, BTECs, GCSEs, the Aspire course and all other study options in IT, Performing Arts, Sport, Massage etc., everything is really thoroughly well taught and most importantly in a fully accessible manner. Tiri spent much of the first term telling us how lovely it was to be able to actually do her work rather than struggling to see it!

Also in this first year, she has also passed her Grade 2 Braille and gained her full independence in all areas of mobility and daily living. She is travelling, shopping, managing her own finances, cooking, washing etc. She is also managing her own health needs and appointments.


Sports – again, whereas her old school seemed to think that inclusive sports was ‘keeping score’ or ‘watching’ (tricky when you have hardly any distance vision) and managed to pretty well ignore the fact that Tiri was a member of the British Women’s Disability Gymnastics Team and a Gold medal winning gymnast and swimmer at UK level, here at RNC they have really supported her continued gymnastic career by both making sure she gets to and from her mainstream gymnastics club and by providing her with great training opportunities at the college.

There have been many, many other extra-curricular opportunities as well – days out, campaigning at the Houses of Parliament, sports and leisure activities and all in all, socially Tiri seems to be having FAR too much fun!! She has a good solid group of friends and gets on well with everyone at the college. She has been this year Chair of the Student Representative body and this has been a fantastic experience for her.


So what’s it like for me as a parent??

Well obviously I miss her dearly. Not the same her not being at home and after a year, I still can’t get used to a house of men and boys! But knowing how happy she is takes the sting out of the tail and we talk and message each other frequently. But most importantly, I feel that I am, for the first time in several years, a parent again. I don’t have to be an educator, a transcriber, a PA, advocate or lawyer for my daughter. And our younger child has benefited hugely from me being able to concentrate at last on his education and his needs.

Finally, thanks to RNC, I feel like I can be a mum.”


If you are considering RNC as a Further Education option, please call our friendly student enquiries team on 01432 376 621 or email info@rnc.ac.uk



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