Abtisam Mohamed

Abtisam Mohamed is a local councillor and community activist. She’s Sheffield’s cabinet member for education and skills. She also runs her own law practice which specialises in human rights and asylum cases.

“I went to Earl Marshal around the time when it was closing down,” she says. “I left with only three GCSEs and no A-levels and ended up working in a call centre. “I was 24 when I decided to go back and study because I thought I can’t work in a call centre for the rest of my life.

“I got into Sheffield Hallam University on clearing and did educational studies then a PGCE for teacher training straight afterwards.”

After making the first major life decision – to go to university – Abtisam then switched subjects and chose to pursue law instead. “I did a Masters in law then a Legal Practice Course at the end – I’ve graduated four times in total,” she laughs.

She studied at both Sheffield Hallam and the University of Sheffield as a mature student and carried on working full time throughout.

“The degree was free in those days but the PGCE, the Masters and LPC cost almost £20,000. I left without any debts though because I worked throughout at the call centre to fund my studies.”

After cutting her teeth at a law firm she took the plunge with her own practice, Crater Law Solicitors, in the city centre and is passionate about her career.

“We deal with asylum, immigration and human rights. It is challenging because of the cases but also because the law in these areas is constantly changing. I would never stop working though, it keeps me grounded."

She became a councillor three years ago but admits it was a role she fell into.

“I’ve always been active in the community and involved in democracy. I’ve always tried to change things for the benefit of people and I’ve been involved in campaign groups and community activities.

“The biggest education mistake ever made was scrapping coursework and making it all exam based. What do exams do apart from help you memorise things?

“Coursework gives you more life skills, you build up a gradual understanding of subjects and learn more realistic skills which benefit you for life.