Case study one: an off-year to pay the bills

January 23, 1998

MICHELLE Polley, 35, pictured above, was a secretary in Oxford when she decided to take an NVQ in childcare.

She went on to an access course at a local further education college at the suggestion of her NVQ tutor, who said she would make a good primary school teacher.

She then won a teacher training place at the Roehampton Institute. "I was so chuffed to get into university that I did not think about how much it would cost me,"she said.

But despite part-time office and bar jobs, she was soon struggling to live off a student grant and loan.

After estimating she would build up a debt of at least Pounds 10,000 if she completed her degree, she decided to take a year off to work.

She found that although she was actively looking for work she could not claim the Jobseekers' Allowance because she was still treated as a student. Only by giving up the course, did she becomeeligible.

"I was really annoyed they wouldn't help out because I had worked from the day I leftsecretarial college."

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