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With a little bit of help from the family

Jane Bortell, coming to the end of her Newman degree course, is managing the Sure Stars neighbourhood nursery in Leamington Spa, part of the Government's Sure Start programme.

She is shortly moving to be Leamington's full time Sure Start early-years co-ordinator. Both jobs have been opened up for her by her degree studies.

Jane came late to early-years work, after a family break from her previous job in a hospital. "I got more and more involved," she says, "and I wanted to go further but I couldn't see a career path."

Then, six years ago, she saw an advert for the Newman college degree and her life changed. "I was on around pound;3 a week when I started," she says. "Now I'm in a management job with a good salary."

Jane will graduate in January in her sixth year of study. With four children, all at home until recently, she would have found the course impossible had it not been based around her own early-years work, with lectures delivered locally in Warwickshire by Newman staff. Even so, it was demanding.

"I'm just too tired to work in the evening," she says, "so my routine for the past few years is that I work all weekend while my husband does everything. No one could do this without their family's support. It has been good in some ways for the children to see me persevering and getting stressed about homework. I've cried at times."

It is nearly over now, though. "I intend to meet my children and tidy up my house," she says.

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