From PRU to uni, thanks to Clearing
Many people wash their hands of excluded pupils, with the expectation that their futures will never amount to much - but Alfie’s story shows, it doesn’t have to be that way.
Permanently excluded from school, Alfie Sajar, 22 from Islington is now about to start his second year at university – thanks to Clearing.
Alfie was kicked out of school when he was in Year 7, aged just 12.
He’d been having a difficult time; he had issues at home - domestic violence, and, was suffering poor mental health – he was also being mercilessly bullied. The crunch came when he was accused of punching a pregnant teacher, he said: “It wasn’t me.”
“It was my word against theirs, and they had all the power. I had had a support from teachers, but … teachers often come to help when it’s too late.”
Staff at the PRU did help him, although, he says they weren’t really set-up to support him: “I was only twelve, I should have been going into Year 8. The PRU didn’t have a Year 8 so I was put in with Years 10 and 11, the big bad lads… and I had to stay in those classes for a few years, until I could leave.” Alfie had tried to commit suicide and had been diagnosed as suffering from PTSD, thought to have been bought on by exposure to gang violence – he’s lost friends to knife crime.
"GCSEs, A-levels, university - I thought those things were for someone else, I didn't think about how not having them would affect my future. I didn’t think I had much of a future, I felt I’d already been left behind.
"My GCSEs weren't the best, but since I’ve become properly focused – I’ve found an environment where I can thrive, and I’m loving every minute.”
After leaving the PRU, Alfie continued to suffer with his mental health and depression.
“I was so unhappy, I was in a ‘super bad’ place – I knew I needed to sort myself out but I just couldn’t move forward, it was only when my mum took me to Young Actors Theatre Islington (YATI), that I could start to see a future.”
Alfie started messing about with his phone and he taught himself how to make films – he started vlogging (video blogging) and he’d built a small following. Knowing that he needed professional instruction and with a growing desire to learn more about the world of media, aged 20 he felt confident enough to enrol at Kensington & Chelsea College.
“I did a one-year BTEC in Media and passed with distinction. I thought my luck had changed, but I fell at the last hurdle. My application to do a degree in Film Production at St Mary’s University, Twickenham didn’t make the grade - I’m still unsure as to what happened there.
“I was terribly distressed when the university rejected me, I couldn’t see a way forward.”
Alfie’s sister, Nadia supported him through this difficult, time she helped him focus and helped him look at alternatives.
“Thank goodness for UCAS Clearing, we found this newly launched degree at Ealing Studios called ScreenSpace – It’s a BA in Content, Media & Film Production. It’s a very hands-on degree run in partnership with London’s MetFilm School and the University of West London.”
Alfie may not be a typical example of a pupil permanently excluded from school - not now - but without support and guidance from his family and the lecturers at ScreenSpace who took a chance on him, he knows he could have been treading a very different path.
“It’s been amazing for me; I’ve met some fabulous people and worked on some really great projects – I’ve just finished a promotional film for a homeless charity and I’m learning all the time – this first year has just flown by.”
Aside from Alfie’s university life he’s kept up with his vlogging, he’s a self-confessed coffee addict and is on a mission to review every independent coffee house in London. You can catch up with Alfie on his YouTube channel