Education Observatory

Research in Education at the University of Wolverhampton

In this blog post, current first year EdD student Nigel Hooson outlines his journey into lifelong learning that has seen him make some decisive and interesting choices to arrive at the doctorate in education programme at the university…

Following a meeting with my Director of Studies (DoS), Doctor Stuart Connor, I feel that I have been selling myself upside down. I nearly give the impression that I am an ex-offender (I am not). I did not fail at school; I achieved what I aimed for. I have, throughout my life, changed and adapted to meet my circumstances or personal interests. I am not afraid to make a change. I am someone who will be the very best I can be at whatever I try. This is my story the right way up!

While at school, I had one ambition, to join the Royal Navy and travel the world. I decided on my career following a hometown visit from HMS Scarborough in 1972. I remember the giant warship anchored in the South Bay off the Scarborough shore. Since then, I have dreamt of sailing around the world and visiting exciting new countries. When I reached secondary school, I took an interest in Geography, with a keen interest in cartography. As a teenager, I had two paper rounds, morning and evening. I worked as a kitchen assistant in my maternal grandma’s hotel. Later I worked at a caravan park, maintaining the site and emptying dustbins. I was also a member of the local sea cadet unit. Through this, I had lots of opportunities for adventure, and twice I went on board ships for a week each. I passed the Royal Navy entrance exam at 15, and a few months after leaving school, I travelled to Plymouth and began my career.

Unfortunately, my career at sea did not go the way I expected, and I found myself back as a civilian. Nothing went wrong other than I decided I wanted something different. However, when I returned home, I discovered there was no requirement for an aircraft rescue man. I had also missed the opportunity to gain an apprenticeship. Due to my new unplanned circumstances, I had no direction. I felt lost and did not know what my next steps were. I learned to drive, and this gave me greater employment opportunities. I learned to be adaptable and to learn new skills. Unfortunately, I could not find my career niche. That was until I gained my HGV licence. This gave me an amazing career, including the travel I had always wanted. I drove to North Africa, Greece and everywhere in-between. I had a problem with diagnosing breakdowns with my truck, so in 1990 I enrolled on a college course; after three years, I gained a level 3 City and Guilds qualification, and I was honoured to receive the student of the year for my course. I built an excellent relationship with my tutor (John) during the course, and he encouraged me to think about teaching. I enrolled in the City and Guilds level 3 adult teaching course. My tutor also presented teaching opportunities for me with evening classes. Regrettably, after four years of study and recently married, I returned to lorry driving full-time due to financial needs. While at college, I subsidised my studies through taxi driving and some local truck driving jobs.

I had maintained my interest in the sea and scuba dived regularly. I took a number of qualifications and became a divemaster. This is where my interest in teaching returned. I loved helping people to achieve their ambition. Sadly, I felt that this was not a potential career path in reality, and I would not be able to sustain it in later life. I then married driving and teaching and trained to be a driving instructor.

I threw myself into my new career, deciding to be the best I could be. I contacted my old college lecturer, who was now involved in teacher training and, in 2005, enrolled on his Preparing to Teach in Lifelong Learning (PTLLS) course. Each new course I took qualified me for the next level, I was presented with the student of the year award at my degree ceremony. Moreover, I studied maths and English, first at functional skills level and then at GCSE. I took mathematics further to the level 5 diploma for numeracy teachers. Additionally, I enrolled and passed the government-backed mathematics development course to teach GCSE maths.

By now, I had changed my career again to meet my new interest in Learning Disabilities, and Difficulties (LDD) gained through teaching people to drive with LDD. I was still working towards a first degree in Education, but I enrolled on a one-year university foundation award in LDD. I volunteered at a local Special Education School as a teaching assistant. Before moving to adult education in the Personalised Learning Programme. I enjoyed the work; unfortunately, the work was term time only and even though I had secured a holiday post at an international school teaching English. While discussing my predicament with a friend, they suggested prison education. I researched the role before applying. I will admit that I questioned my sanity on the day of my interview and at the gate of HMP Onley in Warwickshire.

Nevertheless, I went through the gate and loved the interview, the micro lesson. Three months later, I joined the Novus foundation for change. Every day is different; the opportunities are immense. However, I am thankful for my military service because the regime is tough.

While working in prisons, I completed a master’s degree in education and have been promoted to functional skills management. I have now begun the process of becoming a Doctor of Education. My research interest is to develop a bridge between people being prisoners and being learners. I had my internal drive and intrinsic motivation. It was mine, my freedom to start, stop, or pause, whatever it is called. I decided I had a gap, and I found a way to fill it. Education has been transformational for me.

Nevertheless, I enjoyed each experience, and each of them has created the person I am today. I do not know if I will be successful with the current course. However, I will put my heart and soul into trying my very best. To become Doctor Nigel Hooson and give a voice to people in prison who are not yet ready to become adult learners. 

Thank you to all my lecturers for removing the imposter syndrome cloak – I deserve this opportunity.


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