My career in Early Years began in 1994 when I qualified as a nursery nurse in Hampshire. I moved back to Doncaster shortly after qualifying and Initially worked as a nanny looking after two young children. My daughter was born in 1995 with several health needs, which meant I was unable to return to work until she was six years old and her health conditions were manageable. During this time, I volunteered as a learning support assistant (LSA) at my daughter’s local primary school, supporting her in nursery, reception and year 1, while at the same time gaining early years experience.
In 2000, when my daughter was in full time school, I gained employment as a part time nursery nurse/nursery manager at a Pupil Referral Unit for parents of statutory school age (young mums) and their babies from birth to two. In addition, I also worked as a TA, alongside teaching staff and outside agencies and as a learning support assistant (LSA), within the unit providing one-to-one academic and pastoral support to the expectant and new mums.
As part of this role, I was seconded to work as a TA at the Doncaster Royal Infirmary hospital school, where I supported children from five to sixteen at their bedside and in the classroom, across all key stages with varying needs and abilities. However, in 2010 I was required to step down from my position as a nursery nurse/nursery manager to support my daughter’s health needs once again and just worked one day a week maintaining my roles as TA and LSA, so I was able to care for and support my daughter during this time.
Alongside this position, in 2013 I was employed as a support worker with Aiming High Doncaster. This involved supporting local families and their children with SEND to access leisure activities and provide respite for their families.
In addition, in 2014 the Pupil Referral Unit relocated and became part of Maple Medical PRU. This provided education for students who were unable to attend mainstream school, incorporating Link Education Centre which supported students who were unwell and who were not in hospital but were receiving medical treatment, and JASP for students who were referred to the unit by the Child and Adolescents Mental Health Services (CAMHS), and required mental health support for social or emotional difficulties. As part of my role as a TA and LSA, I supported groups and individual children in both facilities.
In 2015 at the age of forty-eight and once my daughter was settled in University, I started to reassess my future career aspirations and decided to investigate additional training, which incorporated the transferable skills that I now possessed. As I already held a level three qualification, any additional training was in the form of a university degree. I decided to access career advice and the BA(Hons) Early Childhood Studies degree was the course which seemed to meet my academic requirements and suited my previous personal and professional skills perfectly. So, in September 2015 I resigned from my job which I had held and thoroughly enjoyed for fifteen years and enrolled at University Centre Doncaster.
I found returning to study after such a long break a huge challenge, not to mention the new technology which I now needed to use, which hadn’t existed when I first studied for my nursery nurse qualification in 1992. Not only would I have to learn a level six degree, but I would also have to learn the technology needed to complete it.
Studying for a degree in Early Years has transformed me as a professional and changed my life. It has allowed me through theory, research, policy and legislation, to build on, extend and fine tune my existing knowledge, skills, experience and confidence, to enhance my practice around young children’s learning and development, and empower me to support parents in their understanding of young children’s development and learning.
During the second and third years of my degree I spent my placement hours working with Rotherham Doncaster and South Humber NHS Foundation Trust (RDASH), working alongside the community nursery nurses and health visiting teams. Part of my role as a community nursery nurse involved working at a Children’s Centre in an area of high social and economic deprivation with many of the families coming from ethnic minority backgrounds and speaking English as an additional language. During this time, it became clear that my strengths in practice lay in supporting vulnerable children and their families, especially those from disadvantaged backgrounds. This is an area of practice that I am extremely interested in and feel passionately about.
In November 2017 I started to look at what I could do once I had completed my degree. The skills I had developed through my personal and professional learning and practical experience, seemed to mirror those needed to work in social care. In December 2017 I applied to the University of Sheffield to do an MA in Social Work and in February 2018 I was invited for interview. The interview consisted of several different assessments and lasted the whole day. Two weeks later I was notified that I had been successful. I could not believe I had made it through the interview process and was thrilled.
When I started my degree, I was unsure of my future career aspirations once I had qualified. The insight and experience I have gained during the modules taught in years two and three and my community health placement, have allowed me to explore and build on my own areas of interest within early years, namely emotional development, and disadvantage, which have been influenced not only by my personal and professional experiences but also by the work of Bowlby, Gerhardt, Sylva et al, Field and Allen, who have been instrumental in informing and reinforcing my decision to pursue a career in Social Work, which I hope will give me the knowledge and expertise needed to help, support and protect vulnerable individuals, children and their families.
My life is now unrecognisable from what is was, it has changed me as a person for the better and alongside my academic achievements, my undergraduate experience has been invaluable with regards to my personal growth and emotional well-being.
If my narrative demonstrates anything, it verifies that you are never too old to learn and that it is never too late to change your own life and help make a difference to the lives and futures of others.