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Student Insights

Completing the ACA while having a young family

Author: ICAEW Insights

Published: 26 Apr 2023

young family holding hands field walk sunset tree ICAEW Students studying

Parenthood shouldn’t be a career barrier. We meet two students who are balancing their studies with having young families.

Meeting up with other students with young families gives me confidence that it can be done.

Chris Boddy, accounting trainee, Old Mill Accountants & Financial Advisors, Exeter

I was a chef in Bristol for about 10 years, including at some lovely Michelin-star places, but when my wife Louise and I started a family, those hours and that lifestyle just didn’t work. I went from loving my job to hating it. I’d always taken an interest in the financial side of the restaurant business but taking some accountancy modules with the Open University after I got involved with a couple of small charities showed me just how transformative a good accountant can be.

I started my ICAEW Level 7 Accountancy Professional apprenticeship with Old Mill in September 2021. It’s my first-ever office job. Before this, I had run a coffee and ice cream van in the local park at the weekend. My eldest son Zach, now 9, couldn’t understand why I’d trade a job like that for staring at a computer! I was a bit concerned about that myself, but it hasn’t been an issue. I work four days a week and look after my youngest, Jess, 3, on Fridays. Old Mill were totally open to part-time and flexible working – they said “we want our staff to be happy”.

I’m due to part-qualify in June this year and take my final exams next summer. When I’ve been at work all day and come home to Pokémon cards, odd socks and Duplo all over the floor, then feeding time, bath time, bedtime, I’m rarely in the mood for putting in two hours of revision. However, the intensive two-week revision course that my tuition provider Reed Business School provides ahead of the key exams has been a life-saver. We get to stay in a lovely house in the Cotswolds, work really hard and then socialise at the end of the day. 

I’ve passed all of my exams at first attempt so it must be working, but I couldn’t have done it without the support of Louise, who is a part-time paediatrician, and our parents, who help out while I am away. I also find being on the committee of the South West England Chartered Accountants Student Society really useful. It’s nice to meet up with other students with young families. Some of them are a couple of cohorts ahead and it gives me confidence that it can be done.

Being in contact with the local Business Development Manager at ICAEW has really helped guide me through everything I need to do.

Katie Calvert, senior trainee auditor, Kirk Newsholme Chartered Accountants, Leeds

My parents were both accountants and I had swore I never would be one! But I struggled with university and ended up dropping out – the lack of structure didn’t suit me. Then I waitressed in Leeds for a year or so while living with my boyfriend, Jon, who is now my husband. I enjoyed it but decided I needed something a bit more stable. Accountancy seemed like a sensible option. I wrote to Kirk Newsholme and begged for a job - happily, they took me on as a trainee.

I’d already started my level 2 AAT before I started working at Kirk Newsholme and then, in 2018, I started the ACA. I took a break after becoming pregnant with my first son, who was born in July 2019, and I was due to come back to work early in spring 2020 for a couple of days a week. But Covid-19 came along and I ended up being furloughed until nurseries re-opened. I had my second son in October 2021. Between the two births I completed one ACA module (Financial Management), which I did remotely. Since returning to work in October 2022, I’ve taken the Business Strategy and Technology exam and I’m now working on Tax Compliance.

Jon works from home so that’s been really helpful with pick-ups and whenever the children are ill. My company has been very supportive: I have Fridays off, which is my study time. I’ve also had good advice from the skills coach at my learning provider, First Intuition, and our contact at ICAEW, Alexia, was great at guiding me through everything I needed to do when it came to pausing and resuming my studies and planning exams.

It’s been a lot to juggle: going back to work after having your first baby and trying to balance work, study, the apprenticeship tasks, and a pandemic. Time management is the main thing I’ve learned from this whole process: sorting out priorities and making sure I’d got everything organised. Luckily, my boys sleep well and I have them on a good routine.

It has been a lot harder than I imagined, but not so hard that it put me off having a second baby and doing it all again! In fact, having children made me more determined. I’m very proud of myself. I’ve done it for me and to show that it is possible to do both – to have a family and a career.

Speak to the student support team for resources and advice, including pausing your studies as a parent.

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