North East Wales

Travelling fair student Shelby Holmes, 18, earns Oxford place

Shelby Holmes working at her parents' amusement arcade in Towyn
Image caption Shelby Holmes says she is away from school for up to 12 weeks at a time

A student who spends three months a year working on her family's travelling fair has won a place at Oxford.

Shelby Holmes, from Towyn, near Rhyl, says she is "over the moon" after gaining 2 A*s and a B in her exams.

Ms Holmes, 18, has been a pupil at St Brigid's School in Denbigh since she was eight and has been head girl for the past year.

She has won a place to study English literature at Trinity College despite being out of school "an awful lot".

Ms Holmes spends the winter months working on her family's fair as a ride attendant, calling bingo and ensuring that slot machines are maintained.

In the summer, she helps her parents run an amusement arcade at Towyn.

'Unable to read'

"I've been away from school an awful lot, up to 12 weeks at a time," she said.

"But everyone has been very supportive.

"I take as much school work with me as possible and found time to study whenever I can. It's really paid off.

"I'm absolutely over the moon and my parents are ecstatic."

Ms Holmes said she is part of a travelling showman family, distinct from the Irish and Romany traveller communities but with lots of similarities.

She says access to education can be difficult for travelling children with some of her friends unable to read and write.

Her mother, Kim, who left school aged 10, said it was a proud day for the family.

"This is a big thing," said Mrs Holmes.

"To get someone in university is major and to get to Oxford is breathtaking."

Mrs Holmes said her own parents could not read or write and she left school at the age of 10 as the family travelled with their work.

"You all had to pitch in,"said Mrs Holmes, 54, whose eldest daughter Naavenka, 22, always "wanted to travel".

Ms Homes says the view of other people to the traveller community is coloured by the media which "tends not to portray us in a good light".

'Tremendously proud'

And she believes the Channel 4 documentary series My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding did not help to alter that public perception with teenage girls in the programme leaving school at 14 before completing their GCSE education.

"It did not portray the traveller community very well," she said.

"All the girls were very rowdy.

"I know girls completely different - mature and adult," she said.

She obtained A* passes in English literature and religious education and a B in history.

Meanwhile, the number of Welsh pupils receiving the highest A-level grades has fallen for a third year although those who passed has risen slightly, according to results released on Thursday.

Ms Homes said: "I haven't decided what I want to do for a future career.

"It's enough to have got into Oxford."

Stuart Ayres, head of learning for 14-19 year olds at St Brigid's, Denbigh, said staff are "tremendously proud".

He said: "She is a hardworking, sensible young lady who's achievement today is testament to her work ethic, our shared high expectations and the special attention that a small school can give to determined young people like herself."

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