Gemma McCarthy

Gemma McCarthy

Working mum Gemma McCarthy took up a life-changing challenge when she started studying for a degree in Early Years at the University of Wales Trinity Saint David.

UWTSD graduate Gemma was going through a tough time when she decided rekindling her ambition and returning to learning at UWTSD could make a difference.

“Best decision I ever made in my life,” she says.

When the 36-year-old mother-of-three read about the flexi-route BA Early Years degree in Carmarthen she was in the middle of a divorce and working full-time. Despite the difficulties she was facing, she thought she would seize the opportunity and try something that might improve her situation.

Gemma had always dreamed of becoming a teacher but lacked confidence and support. The possibility of working and studying at the same time provided a viable and attractive option. She applied, was accepted and started making a major change to her life.

“At times, it was the hardest, toughest two years of my life, but I wouldn’t change it for the world. The course has made me a better practitioner, it has given me more depth and knowledge, and so much confidence,” she says.

Her achievement has influenced her children and they now aspire to studying at university, she adds.

Gemma has great admiration for her lecturers. “Support from the lecturers was outstanding,” she says.

Gemma, who gained a 1st class Honours degree, has been offered a place on the PGCE course and is looking forward to her future.


Gemma was a fantastic student. As part of our flexible programme she combined employment as a Learning Support Assistant in a primary school and being a busy mother with her studies. She worked diligently throughout her studies, travelling from Bridgend so she could access her degree while still working.  Despite her busy schedule Gemma was always motivated.  Teaching Gemma and her classmates was great as all their experiences working in early years settings made for interesting discussions and as lecturer it was great to hear all their ideas. Gemma graduated with a first class honours and can now look forward to pursuing her next dream of studying a PGCE and becoming a teacher.  One memory I will have of teaching Gemma was her commitment to return to study as well as the fun and humour she brought to the lectures. I have no doubt that Gemma will succeed with her future career and she demonstrates the benefits of returning to education and becoming another one of UWTSD's legends. It is because of students like Gemma and her cohort that we now not only offer the flexible degree on our Carmarthen campus but also in Swansea, so  that we can continue to support widening access across the region and make it easier for students from Swansea, Bridgend , Neath Port Talbot , RCT and beyond to also access our degree. We will continue in future to look for more opportunities to take our programmes closer to our students, so we can make sure students like Gemma have the opportunity to return to study.

Glenda Tinney, Senior Lecturer School Of Early Years, BSc, PGCE, MA, PhD

Find out more about the BA Early Years at UWTSD.