College praise determination of student who battled against sleep apnoea

Isabelle Beckett-Smith.
Isabelle Beckett-Smith.
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A COLLEGE STUDENT who has overcome a debilitating condition which causes sleep deprivation is celebrating exam success - including in one subject which she taught herself.

Isabelle Beckett-Smith from Eckington, near Sheffield, taught herself A-level government and politics as the subject was only being offered at an AS Level.

The 19-year-old Sheffield College student found the syllabus and the official textbooks online and by contacting the exam board. The college paid for her exam fee.

She has passed with flying colours achieving a grade B. She also gained a grade B in sociology and a grade E in law at Hillsborough College, part of The Sheffield College. Now Isabelle has been successful through clearing, securing a place to study politics, philosophy and history at Birkbeck College, the University of London.

Her achievements are all the more impressive given that she has been battling a debilitating health condition called sleep apnoea, which leads to extreme sleep deprivation.

She said: “I feel so happy with my results, given the health challenges I’ve faced. I am really proud of my politics grade as well. I had to go through a mini interview with Birkbeck as part of clearing. They asked me what books I’ve been reading and about issues in the news. I think gaining the politics qualification also really helped.”

She added: “I was determined to study government and politics so I did my research, looked into the syllabus, got the course books and decided to teach myself. I’ve really enjoyed the subject and I’ve completed my studies at home around my other commitments. It was nerve-wracking wondering how I’d got on. It’s been a great experience being at Hillsborough College. I’ve learnt a lot about myself. The staff are great. It’s helped me prepare for university and I’ve developed lots of interests.”

Isabelle’s ambition is to work for the United Nations or the Red Cross. During the last academic year she was president of The Sheffield College Students’ Union. She hopes that her health difficulties will improve this summer. “I don’t breathe properly at night because I was diagnosed earlier this year with sleep apnoea - which prevents me from going into a deep sleep. When I wake up in the morning I feel exhausted, as though I’ve only had five minutes sleep. This has meant that I have struggled with feeling alert and my attendance has suffered at times. I’ve also had to reduce my student union commitments earlier than I intended. I’m due to have an operation this summer, which should help to correct the problem.”

Heather Smith, Principal of Hillsborough College said: “Isabelle has made an excellent contribution to college life as a student governor and as the student union president, examples of the many extra opportunities that our learners can access. Her resilience and determination have enabled Isabelle to successfully continue her studies through a period of ill health, which is much to her credit. I wish her all the very best for her future.”