Deividas Misiunas

Early Childhood Studies BA (Hons)

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Year of graduation: 2021

Current job title: Children’s Social Worker

Current employer: Knowsley Metropolitan Borough Council

Industry sector: Children’s Social Care

I chose the University of Northampton because the Early Childhood Studies degree really appealed to me. What most caught my attention was the inclusion of placements – the idea of gaining hands-on practical experience, alongside theoretical knowledge, was a major factor in my decision.

The modules offered also played a part – they cover a diverse range of topics related to early childhood development, education, and social care, which aligned well with my interests, provided an understanding of the subject matter, and allowed me to explore various career paths within the children’s sector.

Ultimately, the certainty in the University’s commitment to invest in my future, equipping me with practical skills and theoretical knowledge, is precisely why I decided to study at UON.

I thoroughly enjoyed the structured approach of the course, which seamlessly blended theoretical knowledge with actively participating in case studies, allowing me to develop a comprehensive understanding of child development, and apply theoretical concepts to real-life situations, significantly enhancing my learning experience.

The diversity of modules, particularly ‘Exploring Creative and Therapeutic Approaches for Children’s Services’, along with the specialised option in health and social care, contributed to shaping my career aspirations, and reinforced my decision to pursue a career in social work, compared to more conventional paths such as becoming a school or nursery teacher.

I also enjoyed the placement opportunities I had in each year, as I was able to engage in practical experiences, providing invaluable insights into the intricacies of early years and primary education systems. These experiences gave me a real feel of what it’s like for young children in educational settings, adding a whole new layer to what I was already learning.

I completed placements at various educational settings, each providing unique opportunities for learning and growth. My Year 1 placement was at a nursery in Northamptonshire, as an Early Childhood Assistant – Pre-school. I assisted the nursery staff in daily activities, organised play sessions, supervised children during playtime, and ensured their safety and well-being. I also participated in planning and implementing age-appropriate educational activities, observed children’s development milestones, and provided support to meet their individual needs.

My Year 2 placement was at a local primary school, where I was a Classroom Assistant, working closely with teachers to support classroom activities and enhance the learning experience for pupils. My duties involved assisting with lesson preparation, supervising pupils, and providing one-on-one support to those who needed extra help. I also had the opportunity to engage in small group activities, help with classroom management, and contribute to creating a positive learning environment.

My final placement was at another primary school, as a Teaching Assistant in Reception. I supported in various tasks, including assisting with lesson planning and preparation, delivering small group instruction, and providing individualised support to pupils with diverse learning needs. I also helped with classroom organisation, behaviour management, and assessment activities, contributing to the overall success of the educational programme.

These placements provided practical application of theoretical knowledge, fostering my skills development and enhancing my understanding of early childhood and primary education. They sharpened my observation, reflection, and communication skills, while allowing me to network with professionals in the field. They enabled me to clarify my career goals and realise that I wanted to pursue an MA in Social Work, whilst still allowing me to understand England’s early years sector and how it ensures that every child is safeguarded and able to thrive in their educational achievements.

I was also able to cultivate a range of employability skills, which are vital for thriving in the early childhood sector, including effective communication with children, parents, colleagues, and professionals, teamwork, and collaboration to create a supportive learning environment. I learned to adapt to changing situations, demonstrating flexibility and resilience in diverse scenarios.

Problem-solving became second nature as I addressed challenges to ensure the safety and wellbeing of the children, and managing multiple tasks and responsibilities enhanced my organisational skills. Through keen observation and reflection, I continually refined my practice, analysing children’s behaviour and development to inform my approach. Upholding professionalism, maintaining confidentiality, and adhering to ethical standards were also integral aspects of my role.

Overall, my placement experiences served as a strong foundation for future placements in social work and played an important role in preparing me for employment after graduating. This proved to be invaluable during university interviews, as it helped demonstrate my capability to potential professors, and my readiness for advanced academic pursuit.

My advice on making the most out of your placement experience is to thoroughly research available opportunities and tailor your application/resumé to your skills that are most suited to the placement. Start any placement with an open mind but set clear learning goals and objectives to guide your experience.

Take the initiative and be proactive in seeking learning opportunities, build positive relationships with colleagues, and seek regular feedback to enhance your skills and knowledge. Remember to always maintain professionalism with colleagues and service users and document your achievements and reflections for future reference or assignments. Most importantly, enjoy the journey – placements offer a chance to learn, grow, and create lasting memories, so dive in, stay curious, and make the most of them.

Studying at UON provided me with a solid foundation of knowledge and skills relevant to my field of interest and through coursework, assignments, and practical experiences, I gained a deep understanding of theories, concepts, and best practices.

My studies equipped me with transferable skills to work within various industries, including critical thinking, problem-solving, communication, and teamwork, which have been invaluable in navigating professional challenges and collaborating effectively with colleagues and university lecturers. Overcoming academic challenges, managing workload demands, and achieving academic milestones has instilled a sense of accomplishment and determination to persevere in the face of obstacles, which has boosted my self-confidence and resilience.

My career progression so far has been focused on my passion for children’s welfare and social work. I’ve just begun my journey as a children’s social worker, where I work directly with children and families, advocating for their rights and providing support in challenging situations. Since I graduated from my master’s degree, I’ve honed my skills in case management, assessment, and intervention, but I’m still developing these as part of my assessed and supported year in employment, which is a one-year training opportunity designed specifically for social workers in the first year of their career.

I gained several skills during my degree that have proven to be incredibly useful in my current role. Firstly, the strong theoretical understanding of child development, societal inequalities, and early childhood principles has provided a solid foundation for my practice and allows me to assess and understand the needs of children and families more effectively. Secondly, the practical experience gained through placements and hands-on learning has been invaluable – skills such as teamwork, problem solving, and observation analysis are directly applicable to my day-to-day responsibilities. Additionally, the ability to critically analyse and evaluate information allows me to make informed decisions and develop appropriate intervention plans for the families I work with.

Looking ahead, I plan to pursue a PhD in Social Work to deepen my understanding of social issues, contribute to research in the field, and potentially pursue academic or policy-oriented roles. Pursuing a PhD while working full-time can present certain challenges and hurdles, as balancing work commitments with academic studies can be demanding and requires effective time management and organisational skills. Also, securing funding and navigating the application process for doctoral programmes can be competitive and requires careful planning and preparation, but I hope to get there in time.

The advice I’d give to anyone interested in this career path would be to stay open-minded, embrace every opportunity to learn and grow, and never underestimate the power of building strong relationships with colleagues and service users on your journey towards a rewarding career in the children’s sector.

My UON experience was transformative, enriching, supportive, diverse, empowering, fulfilling, dynamic and life changing, and has given me the tools and confidence to excel as a children’s social worker.