Towards the end of her Post Graduate course in Early Years Practice (PGCEYP), Sarah Gresty was promoted to deputy manager of her setting. Shortly after she took over the setting as manager. On top of this success, she is now studying for her master's degree in Education.
"I eventually want to go into educational research and training - I am very interested in special education needs in the early years and safeguarding. Short term, I want to run a successful playgroup whereby the children have opportunities to learn by immersion in wonder and awe!"
Sarah was initially attracted to the University of Reading's Institute of Education (IoE) when she visited London Road campus and was inspired by the enthusiasm of Geoff Taggart, Programme Director for PGCEYP.
"The location was a major factor, as was the reputation of the Institute of Education. The history and beauty of the London Road campus, the structure of the course, and the passionate way Geoff [Taggart] spoke about the University when he gave me a tour totally enthused me. These were all things that made me choose the University of Reading over any other university."
Sarah has a deep-rooted interest in the way children learn, which is what led her into a career in Early Years Practice. Studying this course meant that she was able to further both her passion and her career:
Sarah explains how the course helped her develop into the teacher she is today:
"I believe that continuous professional development is essential and I decided that I needed to learn in greater depth. I love learning, and knew that completing this course would help me to inspire and encourage the children I come in to contact with."
" I have a much deeper understanding of child development. I am more reflective and have become a confident, inspirational teacher."
She continued "By furthering my study in education, I have begun to achieve excellence in nurturing a child's development, managing behaviour, and I can inspire and influence others in my profession to do the same."
Sarah also credits the inspiration and support from staff at the IoE as profoundly influential in her development as both practitioner and teacher.
"I always felt like I had complete support from my link tutor, my academic tutor and also from the University itself. They were all so inspirational! I was already passionate about outside play. Having had Helen Bilton [Professor of Outdoor Learning] talk to us, I became even more so. I was able to bring this into my setting and share the benefits with colleagues. They got on board in finding ways to make the children's experience at playgroup the best it can be. I was also introduced to the term 'Professional Love' which really interested me and is something that I have taken back to my setting."
Practical placements are of course essential to professional development and the IoE excels at providing these, drawing on its long-standing relationships and high reputation with local settings.
"I found the placements incredibly helpful. Key Stage 1 was great because I really experienced where the children go after Early Years, and I took away so much valuable information. I also spent 60 hours in a 0-2 years room, which again was priceless as it gave me first hand experience of an age group I don't usually work with. Working with other professionals with different experiences was amazing, and I took away so many ideas, advice and knowledge."
Sarah's enthusiasm for her programme and for the Institute of Education is infectious.
She has this advice for those considering her course:
" Definitely do it! The amount of knowledge, confidence and friends you will gain is priceless. I finished everyday feeling inspired and fired up to change the world of early years education for the better! Being around likeminded people who share your passion is so good for the soul - I have made such good friends from this course who I know I can call on for any professional (or personal!) advice or opinions!"
Weitong Liu (Victoria) is an international student in her second year of the BA Education Studies Course. She first became interested in studying education during an international week at secondary school. As part of this, she went into poor schools in China to find out how they operate and identified some gaps in the Chinese educational system.
" I love that we have a diverse group on our course which allows us to share experiences about different cultures and education in other countries "
During her course Victoria also chose to do a primary setting placement and observe different learning styles in the classroom first hand. She found that �in China there can be a tendency to deliver a lesson in a lecture style but there is room to make the lessons more interactive and collaborative. She continued:
"It made me want to change the circumstances for students at these schools and make the Chinese educational system fairer. I began to look into courses that would allow me to examine global education and implement best practice from other systems back in China"
In terms of modules that stood out, Victoria generally liked how the different modules on the course linked together. She particular enjoyed the modules on sustainability and special needs. �It was exciting to think of ways to make Chinese education more sustainable. I also found that while both China and the UK had the same rules on treating special needs children equally the UK implements it better.� When asked about tips for future students Victoria said: �Be open minded, critical thinking is vital and if you�re an international student take full advantage of the support provided by tutors on writing academically.
" I feel policies in the UK seem more open and transparent, allowing for more opportunities to influence policy and I�m constantly making comparisons and thinking of what I can take back to China in the future."