Jo Miller

Early Childhood Studies BA (Hons)

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I have always had a passion for working with children and families. Prior to the course I had worked with children in many settings including pre-school, primary schools, and Domestic Abuse Services. I loved learning about children and their development, but I didn’t want to just learn how to do plan lessons, and the best behavioural strategies to use, I wanted to learn more. I wanted to know why children behaved a certain way and the impact family, society and policy has on a child’s development and life chances. That’s why I chose to study at degree level.

I chose University of Northampton initially for convenience as I live in Northampton, but it was also agreeable with family life. On conducting some research on courses and Universities, Northampton Early Years and Education Department had a really good reputation but my decision to apply for the course was confirmed on the Open Day. I had booked two seminars, Early Childhood Studies in the morning and Childhood and Youth in the afternoon. I attended the Early Childhood Studies seminar and listened to Dr Eunice Lumsden talk about the course content, and the opportunities the course would give to pursue a variety of career paths. However, it was her talk about the impact of parental mental health on children across their life course that finally cemented my decision. It was so impelling! I felt so emotional on leaving the seminar, I went to the café and cried. This was definitely the course for me.

The course studies the holistic development of children, their education, health and welfare. A few examples of the subjects covered are Law and Policy, Child development, Child protection, Poverty, Health, Creativity, Pedagogy and Leadership and Management. Embedded in the degree is social justice and the importance of ethics and values when working with children and families. The content and teaching facilitates understanding multiple perspectives and expands your thinking and challenges your own pre-conceived ideas and values. My favourite modules were Health and Social Care, Law, Safeguarding and Creativity and not forgetting a memorable trip to Sweden where we were privileged to see the Swedish education system at work.

The whole culture of the Early Years Department is about inspiring and equipping the next generation of graduates to affect positive change in early childhood. To make a difference in the lives of children and families and to challenge the status quo. The voice of the child is central to every decision you make, in whatever career path you decide to follow. My PAT and the Lecturers helped me become more self-aware, be reflective in a personal and professional capacity. They helped me to realise my strengths and to acknowledge and develop my areas of weakness. This course will develop you as an individual as well as a professional ready to embark on your chosen career.

My PAT, and Dr Eunice Lumsden during the elected module of Health and Social care in the final year, helped me realise that Social Work was my calling. This was confirmed by a career conference that the department organised which brought Teachers, Social Workers, Children’s Centre Workers, Mental Health Professionals, Safeguarding Officers and Charities in to talk about their professions. It was an essential element in informing the next stage of my journey.

My plan was to study a master’s in social work at Northampton but unfortunately family circumstances made this option unviable. I recalled a session with the Changemaker Hub about the various pathways into Social Work. The STEP UP TO SOCIAL WORK programme was one of them, an intensive 14-month programme funded by the Department for Education. Working within a local authority and studying a Post Graduate Diploma in Professional Social Work Practice. This is known to be a very competitive pathway. I applied but didn’t think I would get a place. I couldn’t believe it when they had confirmed that I had got a place! Out of 10,000 applicants!

The degree helped me to develop the expertise that provide a foundation for the skills required to be a social worker, for example, working as part of a team and demonstrate the ability to judge and evaluate complex information. I gained an understanding of the importance of communicating effectively and having the confidence to challenge policy and practices when not in the best interests of children and families.

Furthermore, I could have not done this without the invaluable help and support from the Early Years team. Their drive to push me to realise my dreams and reach my full potential was instrumental in me gaining this opportunity. Even after I graduated, the support I have received has been exemplary, from providing references and helping with application forms.

It has been the most challenging time of my life but the most rewarding. Despite juggling family life, and other issues that I have had to deal with over the course, I have graduated at the age of 50 with a First-Class Honours Degree!! If I can do it then you can, whatever your age, experience or whether you are unsure of what you want to do in the future, this course is the one for you!! It won’t disappoint. This course has literally changed my life, just like Dr Eunice Lumsden said it would, and I will be forever grateful for the knowledge and experiences this course and the staff have provided for me.