Ciara first undertook the Foundation Degree in Children's Development and Learning.
"The University of Reading offered me the flexibility to be able to study and gain valuable knowledge that I could put into practice whilst working full time at a local nursery."
Ciara went on to complete her BA (Hons) in Children's Development and Learning. She loved her time on the course so much so that she decided the next step was going to be a Master's in Education.
"When I completed my BA I well and truly had the 'study bug' and was not ready to stop learning. I loved the passion for learning that the University of Reading had instilled in me and was keen to study towards my master's degree in order to learn more and to be the best practitioner I could be for those I worked with."
When asked about what she particularly enjoyed about her master's Ciara said:
"I really enjoyed studying with international students. I met individuals who came from such a variety of different backgrounds and loved hearing their stories of education from their home countries and how these compared to my own experiences of education."
As a result Ciara became more open-minded as she had the opportunity to challenge her own values and opinions not only in relation to Education, but also in relation to how children are raised within society.
When speaking about the pastoral support offered by the University of Reading, Ciara felt it was excellent and there was always someone on hand to chat, offer support and help to keep you grounded.
Ciara had Professor Helen Bilton as her personal tutor.
"Helen was really caring and genuinely interested in supporting me as an individual. This committed and personalised approach is something I had not previously experienced during my education and it really motivated me throughout my studies and enabled me to become more confident in my writing which subsequently reflected in my grades."
Ciara later requested Professor Helen Bilton as her dissertation supervisor, where Helen continued to offer great support and advice.
"The commitment and belief that Helen showed in me throughout my studies is something that I aspire to embed into my work with children and their families as I truly recognise the power having someone believe in you can have."
Ciara's dissertation was 'An investigation into Early Years Practitioners understanding of the term 'Professionalism'. A case-study of a Private Day Nursery. This allowed her to examine how different individuals perceive their role in education and the influence of various factors such as education and management have on this self-perception.
From her dissertation Ciara put forward the recommendations that the practitioners involved engage in further professional development activities to increase their professional confidence, this may be through formal qualifications, training courses or professional conversations with colleagues.
"Completing my masters gave me the confidence to seek a change in career. I don't feel I would have been able to this without the drive and ambition I gained through studying at University of Reading.
I now work for my local authority as an Early Help Worker, supporting vulnerable families and providing tailored interventions in order to improve outcomes for children and their families so they are able to go on to fulfil their potential."