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Gaynor Web

FdA Early Years Practice

"I have surprised myself with how much I’ve enjoyed the whole degree experience. Initially, the thought of embarking upon a degree terrified me; I was convinced I would struggle and find the workload too difficult or too much. "

Local student, Gaynor, enjoyed a successful career, spanning over 15 years, in the funeral industry, before deciding to embark upon a career change. The nature of the funeral industry meant that Gaynor was regularly on call during evenings and weekends and often worked irregular shift patterns, taking her away from her family. A constant struggle to find childcare during the school holidays and the impact that regularly being away from her family was having on both her and her children became Gaynor’s drive to seeking a career change.

With a desire to in a role that would not only allow her to spend more time with her own children but one that would allow her to inspire a generation of young children, Gaynor began working as a level 2 Teaching Assistant in a local primary school, working with the older students in Key Stage 2. Wanting to gain a sector based qualification, that would allow her to pursue higher level employment opportunities, after conducting research, Gaynor found the level 3 Diploma in Supporting Teaching and Learning in Primary Schools at St Helens College and enrolled in September 2017.

Upon successful completion of the qualification, having enjoyed her time at St Helens College and with a renewed passion for learning, Gaynor explored Higher Education options and discovered the two year, Foundation degree in Early Years Practice with University Centre St Helens.

Offered on a part-time, evening basis, Gaynor was able to balance full-time employment with higher level study, joining the degree in September 2017. Quickly settling in, Gaynor began enjoying the variety of teaching methods employed on the degree, explaining, “I am really enjoying my time on the degree. I enjoy learning the theory behind my practice and developing an understanding of why we do the things the way we do in our setting. Each semester has brought new, interesting modules that have supported me in my professional role and enabled me to become a better practitioner.”

Continuing, she said, “Teaching on the degree is done in a variety of ways, including traditional classroom delivery from lecturers but the smaller class sizes mean that this is combined with a great deal of discussion and debate, as each student can offer a different perspective on the topics being studied. Independent learning is also a big part, with opportunities for research, reflection and tutorial support.”

As well as smaller class sizes on the degree, Gaynor also benefits from a range of on-campus facilities, including quiet study spaces, a student lounge, a modern library and a range of online materials from validating university, Liverpool John Moores University (LJMU). In addition, as a LJMU student, Gaynor is able to use all of the facilities at Liverpool John Moores University and regularly uses the library at the specialist, IAMarsh Campus.

Speaking about her time on the degree to date, Gaynor said, “The lecturers at University Centre St Helens are extremely knowledgeable in their subject areas, they are friendly and approachable and will always make time to offer additional support through tutorials or workplace visits. In addition, they fully understand and support the commitments students make when studying on a part-time basis, whilst working full-time.”

Surprising herself at how much she has enjoyed her time on the degree to-date, Gaynor said, “I have surprised myself with how much I’ve enjoyed the whole degree experience. Initially, the thought of embarking upon a degree terrified me; I was convinced I would struggle and find the workload too difficult or too much. My experience so far has been quite the contrary, I have enjoyed challenging myself and seeing a significant improvement in the quality of work submitted throughout the degree. I have also made some lifelong friendships through the degree with fellow students. The support from them has also been fantastic.”

With plans to continue studying at University Centre St Helens for an additional year, upon completion of the two year FdA Early Years Practice, to secure a full BA (Hons) in Early Years Practice, Gaynor has an open mind about future career possibilities, with plans to use the module content on the BA (Hons) to guide her down one of several specialist routes.

When asked how she would advise a prospective student, Gaynor concluded, “I would definitely recommend planning your time effectively. Try to keep your overall goal in mind and when you feel as though your losing sight of those goals, speak to your lecturers and fellow students, their support is invaluable and remember, the sacrifices you might make in order to complete the degree aren’t forever.

I have loved my time on the FdA Early Years Practice and cannot believe how quickly it has passed. People think two years is a long time to dedicate to study and a long time to complete all of the work that goes with ensuring it is a successful experience, but once you begin, the time actually flies by. It isn’t easy, it is a degree. It requires commitment and hard work, but the whole experience has made me want to succeed beyond what I ever thought was possible and make my family proud, and that’s exactly what I intend to do!”