Zoe's delight at First Class Masters Degree

A former pupil at a special school is hoping to inspire others after receiving a First Class Masters Degree.

Friday, 23rd August 2019, 1:45 pm
Updated Thursday, 19th September 2019, 11:13 am
Zoe Sharpe.

Inspired by CSI and with a talent for the sciences, former Woodlawn School pupil Zoe Sharpe is celebrating after earning the degree in Forensic Science.

Zoe, 24, from Howdon, has praised the support she received from her former school in Whitley Bay during her A-levels as being ‘instrumental’ to her success.

Zoe has autism and her condition means she can sometimes feel uncertain in new situations, but she says the support she received from both Woodlawn and Northumbria University enabled her to pursue her ambitions and achieve tremendous success.

Zoe said: “When my teachers at Woodlawn learned about my interest in science and my wish to pursue it as a career, they did everything they could to help me.

“This included supporting me to attend A-level applied science lessons at a different school and encouraging me to keep going whenever I had my doubts about my own ability to deal with new situations and change.”

Zoe then attended Queen Alexandra Sixth Form College in North Shields before applying to Northumbria University.

She said: “My mam loved to watch CSI programmes, and the science aspects such as DNA analysis really fascinated me.

“I chose Northumbria because I liked the idea of a combination of hands-on lab experience and developing my research skills which would allow me a wider option of work when I finished my degree.

“It also had a really good disability support system that made sure I had an individual plan tailored specifically to my needs, like a note-taker for lectures and extra time on exams when I would be under a lot of pressure.

“My advice to anybody with autism who wants to go to university but is unsure about the change or their ability to cope, is that it's normal to find things harder than other people do, and there's support available to help with bridging that gap.

"It's also really important to not feel guilty about taking the help that's offered, it wouldn't be offered if they didn't think you deserve it.”

Zoe is now planning her next steps, and is hoping to secure a lab technician role or go into research.

She added: “I'd like to thank everyone at Woodlawn who helped with my journey, specifically Cat Findlay who encouraged me a lot to push my boundaries, and Angela Blanch who provided a vital source of support when I needed it.

“I would also like to thank Dr Eleanor Graham at Northumbria University for trusting me with an amazing Fourth Year project and giving me all the support I needed to develop my lab skills to the next level and achieve the best work I can.”

Headteacher at Woodlawn School, Gill Wilson said: “Zoe is an absolute inspiration.

"Her story and her achievements prove that our pupils can go on to achieve exceptional qualifications.

"Every single pupil at Woodlawn is unique, and we work hard to nurture each pupil’s individual talents and abilities so they can achieve their very best.

“We have an amazing team here at Woodlawn and I know that the staff who supported Zoe directly are extremely proud to have been part of her journey.”

Dr Eleanor Graham, senior lecturer at Northumbria University, said: “It has been a privilege watching Zoe’s personal and academic development over the last four years.

"From her shy and anxious beginnings, the support we have been able to offer at Northumbria University has helped Zoe mature to become the confident woman she is today.

“I was immensely proud to watch her graduate with first class honors and on behalf of the whole forensic teaching team, wish Zoe every success in the pursuit of her scientific career.”

Woodlawn has recently been rated by Ofsted as ‘Good’, with ‘Outstanding’ in two areas, following a period of significant change and improvement.

For more information about the school, visit www.woodlawn.org.uk