King James Alumni: Kara Munro

July 2023


Kara graduated with a BSc in Speech and Language Therapy.

‘It seems like five minutes ago that I was a student at King James, but it has been nine whole years since I left Sixth Form! I was never truly sure of what I wanted to do growing up, stuck between my creativity and love of being on stage and academic work. I flitted between career ideas for a long time, journalism, marketing, creative writing, business and even estate agency until one day in Year 10, I went on a University trip and found myself drawn to Speech and Language Sciences. It seemed perfect because it was academic yet creative, caring yet scientific. It involves supporting individuals from birth right through to death to get their voice heard and to understand the world around them, and I had my sights set on that as a career from that moment on. I attended shadowing sessions across the county and linked in with speech and language students, however my journey to University was not without it’s hurdles.’

‘In the first year of Sixth Form, my predicted grades of ABBB suddenly collapsed and I got ABEE. One very heartbroken results day later and I thought my aspirations were over, or at least significantly delayed, but I picked myself up and decided to take Applied Science, a two-year course which I strived to complete in one year. Whilst I threw myself into my studies, I was surrounded by the constant pressure of the UCAS email alert; rejection after rejection arrived whilst my friends were receiving unconditional offers which was really difficult. Speech and Language Therapy was funded by an NHS bursary at that time meaning no tuition fees and a bursary payment each month; this led to more people applying and it becoming increasingly hard to get a place. I struggle to count the number of hours Mr Shearer and I spent on the phone to University admissions and I felt really down heartened; it was hard not to give up at times.’

‘However, one evening whilst in the middle of Drama session, I received a UCAS alert; Leeds Beckett had given me an offer, achieve ABB and I was in! I cried for most of that evening. Results day came around and I achieved A*AA and my place was confirmed.’

‘University was beautiful but hard; being surrounded by postgraduate students who already had a Degree in Psychology or Linguistics, I often felt out of my depth. I spent long days studying and even longer days on placement so quickly understood why the NHS funded the course as an incentive. I held down three jobs whilst studying full time to build up my experience and set me apart from my peers when making job applications; this included being a carer for a toddler with complex needs and working privately as a Speech Therapy Assistant for a tech company. Three years later, I graduated with a BSc in Speech & Language Therapy with First Class Honours and received a job offer back home straight away. Life was good and all the resilience I had built in King James Sixth Form had paid off.’

‘I swiftly developed clinical interests and moved through different positions, from newly qualified to focusing on stammering, to then becoming a specialist therapist in Autism and language disorders. This somehow led me onto leading and redesigning the preschool neurodevelopmental assessment (Autism, Attachment and ADHD) for the whole of Stockton and Hartlepool. This involved dealing with hundreds of anxious parents who were waiting for their child’s needs to be understood, many of whom had been stuck in the pandemic backlog for some time.’

‘Now, I work as the Lead Speech and Language Therapist in a No Wrong Door project. This involves working with teenagers who are in care, or on the edge of care, in a trauma-informed and relational way to get them back home. A significant number of the young people I’ve worked with have undiagnosed speech, language and communication needs and I’m fighting to understand these teenagers and to dispel the “naughty children” narrative. I have given presentations to MPs and the Chair of the Royal College of Speech and Language Therapy to campaign for further SLT involvement in social care, and I’m also looking to complete research projects in this area.’

‘I would say that having resilience is incredibly important and I certainly developed it by overcoming failure and rejection whilst studying in Sixth Form. Combine this with passion, dedication and hard work and you can eventually get where you want to be, so my advice to anyone would be to never give up.’