Karen Malcolmson

Early Childhood Studies (Top-Up) BA (Hons)

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  • Year of graduation: 2022
  • Current job title: Cover Supervisor
  • Current employer: Danesholme Infant Academy
  • Industry sector: Education

Your University Journey

Why did you choose your course at UON?

As a very mature student, I chose the Foundation Degree in Early Years, followed by the Top-Up year for my BA (Hons) Early Childhood Studies, as I needed to continue to work while I studied. I had previously tried distance learning and struggled to find the time or to apply myself to the course. I really liked the idea of attending university, where I would meet people who also worked in the Early Years.

What aspects of the course did you enjoy the most and why?

The best bit about the course was meeting other people who worked in the Early Years. I’ve worked in the same setting for over 20 years and it’s the only setting I have experience in. It was interesting to hear other people’s opinions and experiences about the Early Years, both in school and nursery settings. I also enjoyed learning the theory behind Early Learning and then going back to my setting and seeing these theories in real life. We were taught by a fantastic group of lecturers, who shared their vast experience with us, but also recognised that as practitioners already working in the Early Years, we also have very valid points to make which were valued.

How do you think your studies have helped your career or personal development?

I’m currently continuing with my career as a Cover Supervisor at a school, and am assessing my options now I’ve finished my degree. I would like to continue in the Early Years, and although I still have the same role, I feel like now I have my degree, I have the opportunity to further develop my understanding and professionalism. I feel more confident to take on responsibility for an area of teaching and learning, specifically Outdoor Education, knowing I have the knowledge to succeed.

Your Career Journey

Describe your career progression so far and any plans you have for the future. Are there any particular hurdles you may face?

After over 20 years of work experience, I first trained as a Teaching Assistant and am now a Cover Supervisor. In the future, I would like to go back to university to complete my Early Years Teacher Status. This, however, is now dependent on finding my English, Maths and Science GCSE certificates, as these are required for my next step.

Which, if any, skills and knowledge/understanding gained on your degree are most useful in your current role?

The theory of how children learn has been the most useful. I knew that child-led and outdoor learning was important, but now I know why and have adapted and improved my Early Years practise using this theoretical knowledge. I also now have a greater thirst for knowledge and like to keep up with new theories so that I may make a difference in young children’s lives.

Volunteering

Are you currently involved in any community or volunteering projects?

Yes, I volunteer as a martial arts instructor, taking my knowledge of building confidence and resilience into my teaching practice. I teach children from 6 to 13 years old – not only physical techniques, but also an ethos of they can achieve anything they set out to do.

Your Advice

In one sentence, what advice would you give to undergraduates interested in this career path or anything you wish you had known earlier?

Start your application now. Talk to your place of work about continuing to earn while you learn, as the course is one day at the University per week. If you have any difficulties or disabilities, talk to the University as soon as possible – they are really supportive. As a hard-of-hearing student, I was supported by the provision of equipment and by the lecturers who would go through anything I hadn’t heard properly.

In ten words, or less how would you summarise your UON experience?

Thought-provoking, hard work and sometimes stressful, but totally worth it.