Under-employed nurse who took up A-levels comes top of the class

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The Independent Online
KRYSTYNA Keen (above), from south London decided to take an A-level in law after health service cuts led to a decline in demand for her services as an agency nurse. Now she has been named as one of this year's top 10 candidates by the Associated Examining Board, the country's biggest exam board, writes Fran Abrams.

Mrs Keen, 42, is one of a large number of London-based students who did well this year. For the past year she has juggled her studies with part-time nursing and looking after her two daughters, aged seven and eight. Despite these difficulties she gained the best mark out of more than 8,000 candidates in law and politics. 'There isn't as much agency work as there used to be so I was getting bored. Otherwise I would have just ended up doing housework,' she said.

The daughter of Polish parents, Mrs Keen did not speak English until she went to school, but went on to take two A-levels in English and History before going into nursing at 18.

From the beginning of her course at the adult education section of Lewisham College she was encouraged to apply to university. The University of Greenwich offered her a place on its law degree if she could manage a grade 'B', but after the exam she was not sure whether she had done well enough. Now her tutor hopes she may win a place at one of London's older universities.

She feels that she was able to apply personal experiences to the exam questions in a way not open to most 18 year-olds. One question on how laws are passed and changed gave her an ideal opportunity to write about the Civil Rights (Disabled Persons) Bill and the protests which surrounded its failure to pass through the House of Commons.

(Photograph omitted)