Woman’s journey from school expulsion to law degree

Roxanne Skychalski, from Belton, who had a tough time in school but is now studying law at universit

Roxanne Skychalski, from Belton, who had a tough time in school but is now studying law at university in London. Right, pictured with Vicky McKenzie one of her teachers at East Norfolk Sixth Form College. Pictures: C/O Roxanne Spychalski - Credit: C/O Roxanne Spychalski

A young woman who was expelled from school at 13 and only took one GCSE has shared a message of hope with other teenagers in tough circumstances after securing a place at university to pursue her dream career.

Roxanne Spychalski, 21, struggled in school both before and after her expulsion, but said she was determined to "prove wrong" the people who doubted her abilities.

She is now at university edging closer her dream job as a criminal defence barrister - and wants to provide a positive example for other teenagers who feel downtrodden.

"I want to get the message out to help someone else who thinks that they cannot achieve," she said.

After being expelled from her Gorleston high school in year nine, Ms Spychalski, from Belton, moved first to a pupil referral unit, then to the Short Stay School for Norfolk and then to Include Schools Norfolk's site in Great Yarmouth.

There had been an agreement for Miss Spychalski to return to her high school after two terms, but a change of circumstances meant she was not able to go back.

"That was a massive kick in the teeth for a 14-year-old," she said.

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"It was going downhill. I was angry that I had been excluded."

She then moved to Include School's Norwich site, where she was given the opportunity to sit an English GCSE.

"At those schools you weren't really taught any other subjects than English and maths and there was constant disruption in class. You could be sitting there and someone would throw a table across the room," she said.

Despite the problems Miss Spychalski secured a C in her English exam - enough to earn her a place at East Norfolk Sixth Form College, where she studied A-levels in criminology, psychology and law.

She said: "Since I was 15 I have really wanted to be a criminal defence barrister and since then I have wanted to prove people wrong about me."

Through what Miss Spychalski says was invaluable help from staff at the college, she gained a place at Kingston University in London to read law. At the end of her first year she transferred to Westminster University, where she has now been studying for two months.

She is on the hunt for work experience with law firms and spends her spare time volunteering with the Citizens Advice Bureau.

Reflecting on her personal journey, she said: "At first there were points where I felt I couldn't do it and I still battle with that now, like if I have a down time I think 'what if they were right?'. But if there were right, I would not have got to where I am today."

She said unwavering support from her parents, brother and three sisters had helped. "That has been the nicest thing, to know there is someone there who believes in you," she said.