GCSE results day: Meet the senior NHS nurse who failed all her GCSEs and says it’s “not the end of the world”
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Kelly Foster, 42, failed all eight of the GCSEs she sat at 16 years old – and she is now a high-ranking senior nurse in for the NHS.Kelly is a band eight nurse and the service lead in a community Macmillan team in Trafford, Manchester.
She is responsible for managing the Macmillan nursing teams across the area for Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust. Band 8 is one of the highest-level NHS nurse qualifications before Chief roles - it requires extensive knowledge and stellar qualifications.
She received grades D in maths and F in English and science, and was also bullied for being overweight, but this never stopped her from following her dream. Instead, she spent 10 years grafting at college and university - while working and having a family - and now “loves” her job.
Mum-of-three Kelly, from Stockport, Greater Manchester, said: "I hated school, I didn’t thrive and I felt like I was trapped in the school walls with no refuge - ultimately I felt depressed and a failure from a young age, I was mainly teased throughout both primary and secondary school because I was overweight which was just horrible.
“I’m not the academic type, I’m a practical worker and thinker. So, after being told I was lazy, and useless in school, to achieve what I have achieved, I am really proud.”
Kelly also said she was picked on for her clothes, saying she didn’t come from “much money”. She left school aged 16 in 1997 with zero GCSEs but, with the hope that one day she would follow through with her dream of qualifying as a nurse.
Kelly managed to get into college in Stockport where studied GNVQ health and social care, for three years. She had to pass an intermediate level before her progression onto the advanced course, due to not having the grades, delaying her by a year.
Though she wasn’t bullied in college, her three years were a grind. Kelly said: “I was at college Monday to Friday - 9am to 5pm. I would then work most evenings six till 11 at the local Co-op to earn some cash.
“I was also going back to college one night a week to re-sit my English GCSE because I desperately needed it so I could progress to university.” At age 20, Kelly successfully passed college, saying then she was now “ready” to take the next step – university.
But, her place was postponed by 18 months after Kelly fell pregnant with her now 21-year-old son, Harry. During this time, she worked as a health care assistant at her local hospital, in Stepping Hill in Stockport.
At age 22, Kelly finally earned her spot to study nursing at the University of Manchester. “Once I applied, went through the interview process, and got my spot, I was absolutely belated – words can’t describe my feelings," she said.
In 2006, aged 25, Kelly graduated from university as a fully qualified nurse after failing every GCSE almost 10 years prior. She has since progressed in her journey and is now a band eight out of a possible nine.
She has since been back to university, passing a degree and master’s level nursing modules to support her role in the Trafford Local Care Organisation NHS team. Kelly at one point lost eight stone and has also run three half marathons - two in her nurses’ uniform.
She has also raised over £50,000 for charities such as MS, Alzheimer’s and St Ann’s Hospice. Kelly says she struggles with imposter syndrome due to her high school bullying, but claims “it hasn’t defined” who she is.
She added: “I absolutely love being a nurse. It’s what I have also wanted to do. It is a very privileged position and it is a privilege to work this job. My journey has only made my satisfaction once I finally achieved all the things I have even better.
“To students out there who didn’t get the grades they wanted, don’t let it put you off. Failing isn’t the end of the world. You can achieve anything you put your mind to, and if you really want it you can do it. It’s your life - it’s your story.”