Ok, its been a week since its been done and here is my update!
The mechanic discovered a slight leak in the bell housing, but nothing that required immediate attention or would affect the gears he thought. He duly replaced the gearbox
and Ive been doing the 21 mile Uni run for a week.
The gear changes have improved, its a lot slicker and Ive noticed the change especially in reverse. So far I havent experienced any of the problems I had before getting into second gear, but first is very occasionally tough to get into, though nowhere near as frequent as before.
I think if you can get it done for a tenner like I did its probably worth a shot.
Whether the answer lies completely in a new clutch I dont know, and its really not something I can afford to know at the moment. that said, the clutch itself does appear to be fine.