Study options for young mums

Having a baby while you're still a student doesn't have to mean the end of your education. There's plenty of support available if you know where to look.

Woman graduating with baby

Amazing, got a degree and I'm not in charge of nappy changing today.

Qualifications are even more important if you have a child to support, but it’s all too easy to just drop out. Sapphira, 22, was determined this wouldn’t happen to her, despite having her son just a few months before her GCSEs. “It’s good to have a focus; I really wanted to become a nurse,” she says. After taking a year out, she started a Health and Social Care GNVQ at college. “It’s not like you have a child and your life has ended. You need to get out, be around like-minded people who have ambition and boost your confidence,” she adds.

I’ve fallen pregnant on my course, what shall I do?

If you get pregnant while on a course, your school, college or university will help you plan your studies around the birth. Lindsay Wakefield, 20, didn’t even need to take a year out. Her daughter was born at the beginning of the second year of her graphic design degree and she went back just three weeks later. “My uni was very supportive and let me take her in if I didn’t have childcare,” she says. “They also gave me a bursary that provided a Mac so I could do work at home.”

Can I get help with childcare?

Financial help is available provided you use a registered childcare service, not family or friends. Entitlement depends on your individual circumstances – your student welfare service will be able to advise you.

Sapphira completed her college course with the support of the Care to Learn scheme, which pays up to £160 per week (£175 in London) towards childcare if you’re on a further education course at school or college. To qualify, you must be under 20 at the beginning of your course, or when you return to it after a break.

If you’re over 19, you could be entitled to a similar amount via the Discretionary Learner Support. Higher education students can qualify for a Childcare Grant, which can cover as much as 85% of childcare costs during term-time and holidays. If you are on a full-time undergraduate course you may also be able to get a Parent’s Learning Allowance on top of your student loan.

Other financial help

If you’re under 19, you may be entitled to Education Maintenance Allowance (EMA). There are also various other sources of financial help for parents in education.

Student parents may also be entitled to Income Support. You can find out more about benefits from your student adviser, Jobcentre Plus, or Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB).

Living in Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland?

Much of the above information only relates to England, but there are similar schemes in other parts of the UK. It’s best to speak to your student advisory service. The National Union of Students (NUS) website gives a useful overview of how financial support for student parents differs in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Struggling to make friends after having a baby?

Being a student parent can be lonely. “I remember being in class and thinking all these other people are going out somewhere else to hang out with their friends but I have to run home and be responsible,” says Sapphira. However, you’ll probably find that you’re not the only student in this situation – ask your college or university if there’s a student parents’ support group in the area.

“I had really good friends who would come over and work with me at home and play with the baby at the same time,” says Lindsay. “You do have to give up some things, but I didn’t find it as bad as people said it would be.”

Both Lindsay and Sapphira are glad they continued with their studies. “I didn’t want to be just another mum at home with no prospects. If I’d stayed at home I wouldn’t be where I am now,” says Lindsay, who has recently started work as a primary school teacher.

And Sapphira is well on the way to achieving her ambition – she is now studying for a nursing degree. “I’m not just defined by being a mother,” she says. “I’m more than that.”

Photo of woman graduating from Shutterstock.

Next Steps

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Updated on 29-Sep-2015