Laura Hale

Early Childhood Studies BA (Hons)

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  • Year of graduation: 2023

I was already working in an Early Years setting in the role of Setting Manager when I began studying at the University of Northampton in September 2020 – the course had been recommended by a friend that had already completed it. I was nervous about studying, especially as I was an older student, but I was reassured by my friend that it wouldn’t make any difference and that I’d get a great deal out of studying at UON.

I wanted to further enhance my knowledge and understanding of the Early Years sector and was keen to learn about the theories of child development and explore a world that I, up to this point, was only scratching the surface of. I looked at two other universities as well as the University of Northampton, but after visiting and meeting some of the lecturers, it was an easy choice. The modules offered at UON were everything I was looking for and the subject areas were uncharted territory for me, so I was thrilled to have my place confirmed.

The course has driven me to want to learn even more about Early Years and to drive high quality teaching and learning – not only in my setting, but in other settings too. I aspire to support other settings to reach their full potential by increasing their knowledge and understanding of the Early Years sector, and my goal is to be part of a project that will positively support children and practitioners to increase their opportunities – both in education, and within their whole life.

The knowledge I gained during my course will positively influence my practice and allow me to lead my team in a passionate way to encourage children not only to attend an Early Years setting, but to be in an environment that supports their whole family. I’ve gained skills that enable me to deliver training to my team and to the families I work with, in a way that I wasn’t previously able to. My studies will continue to develop my understanding and hopefully enable me to progress beyond the setting into a role that will impact the practitioners who deliver teaching and learning, and I’ve now realised that I have a greater range of opportunities than I had before I completed my degree.

I’ve always loved conducting research, but because of my course, I now have the ability to research and produce material that I can deliver as training, or as an information evening. I can carry out research, collect data, and create a PowerPoint to use as a training tool. This has supported practitioners with their own understanding, and enabled parents to better understand their children and help them to work in partnership with the setting.

During my course, I completed a placement within my own setting. Duties as a Setting Manager were undertaken, but I also spent some time updating our outdoor space as an area that promotes all learning and development by being reflective with practitioners and children. I’ve implemented ideas from respected outdoor learning creators, and researched current theories and pedagogies that can support and influence practitioners.

The placement also taught me how to research an idea and put it into practice and then evaluate whether it was a positive addition to the setting, by enabling me to put my new knowledge to the test and then evaluate its success. This demonstrated how important it is for all practitioners to be consistent in their own practice, and how being passionate within Early Years improves children’s learning, development, and overall wellbeing. I was also able to get valuable practical experience and be part of a working team, which will enhance my employability prospects in the future.

My tip on getting the most benefit from your placement is to be punctual, positive, and passionate about what you do. Treat everyone with respect and always view it as your ‘real’ job. Demonstrate your drive for change and be passionate in looking for ways to be reflective and improve practice. Show that you are a team player and are keen to learn and be part of a bigger team.

I’m currently a voluntary Welfare Officer for a swimming club within the South East region, where I’m responsible for the safeguarding of the club for all its members. I have to keep up to date with current safeguarding requirements and legislation for the sport and the club, and I’m also responsible for the code of conduct for all employees, volunteers and members.

The advice I’d give to undergraduates interested in this career path would be to go for it – don’t let anything be a barrier! It will be a huge benefit to your practice and will open doors to further your career. Also, visit the University at an open day and speak to some of the current and previous students.

My UON experience was powerful, insightful, inclusive – it was a great place to study.