Against the odds

21st August 2009 at 01:00
Five years ago, Burcu Tokay did not understand a word her teachers were saying. This week, the 19-year-old received her A-level results in maths and technology.

Burcu moved to England from Turkey at the age of 14. She and her mother joined her father, who had lived in Britain for 18 years, sending money home for his family.

"It was hard to come and not speak English," says Burcu of her first few terms at Morton Academy in Carlisle.

"I didn't understand any lessons, or what the teachers were talking about. My headteacher said: `You don't need to talk. Just listen.' But the teachers were explaining to me again and again."

Burcu, who is confined to a wheelchair with muscular dystrophy, was not given additional language classes. Instead, a teaching assistant was assigned to help her with her English.

However, she found her first years so difficult that she despaired of ever sitting her GCSEs. "I thought, oh it's stupid. I will fail. After my results came good, I was very shocked."

Nonetheless, she had not anticipated being able to sit A-levels. But having successfully passed her GCSEs, she decided to stay at school.

She now hopes to go to university to study business and technology. But first she will spend two years at college, improving her English.

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