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Big Issue vendor Clive, 58, earns GCSEs and now has sights set on university

The popular Plymouth vendor Clive passed his maths and English GCSEs after studying hard in lockdown

Popular Big Issue vendor Clive achieved his dream of passing his maths and English GCSEs at the age of 58 and now is planning to head to university.

The Plymouth vendor joined 500,000 teenagers eagerly awaiting their results around the country on Thursday after he took courses at City College Plymouth during the pandemic. Clive managed to achieve a 5 in both English language and maths despite only studying for the latter on a four-month course.

Education has given him a “massive” confidence boost, the vendor said as he moved closer to achieving his dream: studying creative arts at university.

Delighted Clive, who sells the magazine outside the Theatre Royal Plymouth, told The Big Issue after picking up his results: “It’s absolutely amazing for me, I’ve passed both with flying colours. 

“I just can’t believe I’ve managed to do it. It is such a massive step up for me. Normally, my life gets better in little stages and little steps at a time. But this is a massive leap for me. I feel like I’ve been to Eton or something. I never expected to do it.

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“My inner confidence has had a massive boost thanks to being in education. It’s a future for me. Now, I want to do more in education.”

Clive had a difficult childhood, growing up in the care system and foster homes before he battled addiction and homelessness as an adult. But The Big Issue vendor has turned his life around since he started selling the magazine in London’s Covent Garden 14 years ago.

Later, Clive received free show tickets from The Big Issue for the Theatre Royal in Plymouth, and subsequently asked to move to a pitch outside the venue. It wasn’t long before the vendor and his pet dog, Geezer, became a big part of the local community, while taking on acting classes, starring in productions and participating in the theatre’s Our Space programme. 

The experience gave Clive the confidence to move back into education and he started attending the college in March 2019.

He then took maths and English functional stage one and two classes at the college during the pandemic, even attending the near-deserted institution to study last summer.

The vendor has been working on his English GCSE since last summer but managed to pass his maths qualification despite only starting a four-month fast track course earlier this year.

“When I was a kid I hated education. I was in and out of care and fostering so my youth in the education system wasn’t very good,” Clive added. “By the time I was 14 I was in detention centres, my start in life was not the easiest.

“So today has been a really exciting day and having the media here is just like the icing on the cake because I really enjoy doing this type of work as a representative of The Big Issue.

“The Big Issue has built my confidence as well. It has been the backbone of my life for the last 13 or 14 years. Those smiles you get being a Big Issue vendor, the pounds coming in, the little bits of encouragement, people start to believe in you, you start believing in yourself.”

Sean Doogan, math lecturer at City College Plymouth, also heaped praise on The Big Issue vendor.

“Clive has been a fantastic student who worked diligently on improving his maths skills during the year,” said Doogan. “He has been an inspiration to others, and I am so happy to see him achieve the success his hard work deserves.”

Clive has previously been named on Plymouth’s Happy List and was recently honoured with a pink plaque outside the theatre as part of city-wide efforts to honour local community champions. 

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