Course studied: BA (Hons) Early Childhood Studies
Graduating year: 2020
“I have truly realised my potential.”
Bath Spa alumna Lauren (BA (Hons) Early Childhood Studies, 2020) was a Student Academic Rep during the coronavirus pandemic. She was an integral part of the School of Education community during a difficult time and her efforts saw her awarded Student of the Year in the 2020 Vice-Chancellor’s Awards. She is now undertaking a Bath Spa PGCE in Early Years Initial Teacher Training.
My journey to a career in education
My journey to university was not a traditional one. I suffer from anxiety and my parents were worried about me moving away from home. They encouraged me to take a gap year rather than go to university to study Psychology after my a-levels.
During my year out I did an apprenticeship as a nursery assistant. At that point I realised I could do so much more.
I was still planning to study Psychology at another university but I was curious about Bath Spa, where I had an unconditional offer because of my a-level grades and my two years’ experience in education. I decided to visit the uni to see if I should rule it out.
It was the campus that swung me. It’s small enough that it feels community-like and I could see myself feeling a lot more at home at Bath Spa than I would in a big city university.
"The course is about so much more than teaching – it taught me about children holistically – how to think about the whole child."
Now, I’m employed by the setting where I’m currently training. The focus of the PGCE with Early Years Initial Teacher Training is babies and children up to five years old, so I’m very much still invested in early years education. This course will also allow me to teach in reception classes.
A day in the life of an Early Years practitioner
"Allowing children to learn through play is my passion."
In my current role I have complete autonomy to come up with my own activities. I get to support children’s learning and development in a creative way – this could mean anything from messy play to going outdoors to look for details in nature or organising scavenger hunts.
One activity can mean so much to a child. They can experience textures, colours – even new foods – while learning about their emotions, maths and literacy – all in the same exercise. During lockdown, working remotely with children (while their parents are watching!), has made things more difficult, but I’ve still made some breakthroughs.
How the course supported me
"My experience at Bath Spa has been very personalised; lecturers think about what they can do to support you to go where you want to go in your career."
In my second year, one of my lecturers suggested that I enter a writing competition for an Early Years association. They felt that part of my assignment that year was good enough to submit and they supported me to rewrite and extend it. I wrote about the conflicts inherent in being a student in early years settings – you’re learning all this theory but is it always practical in setting? I concluded that sometimes you can’t always do what you want to do, or instill the values that you believe in. I didn’t win the competition but TACTYC did decide to publish the article on their website.
"This made me realise that I could do a lot more than just study while I was at Bath Spa. As a student you can also undertake research and even get it published."
If it wasn’t for the lecturer’s suggestion I wouldn’t have done it. I wouldn’t have realised that I could do it without that little nudge.
In my third year I submitted another academic article to the Early Childhood Studies Degree Network. It was based on my research into what neuroscience can offer early childhood education in terms of understanding emotion regulation. In it I explored the limitations and benefits of neuroscience research in supporting young children. This was also published – and this time I was even more confident in my writing ability.
Before, writing for assignments felt laborious, whereas now I enjoy the research and value the importance of it – it’s improving my practice.
I reflect on the academic side of my subject so that I can improve as a practitioner.
"One of the values that Bath Spa has instilled in me is being a reflective practitioner. I’m always reflecting on what I can do better or how I can better support a child."
How I supported the course
I was a Student Rep throughout my three years at Bath Spa and Senior Academic Rep in my third year.
2019-20 was full of challenges and unforeseen obstacles and although at times my role as a Student Academic Rep was stressful, it was ever so rewarding.
One of my goals as a SAR was to work on how we could make sure that students felt not only that they were being listened to but that something was being done to address any concerns they raised.
In the final year of my degree I achieved things I never thought possible and I feel I have truly realised my potential.
Lauren's advice for current students
Anxiety doesn’t go away but you can learn to cope with it. The first week of my undergraduate degree was hard but soon I started to make friends and enjoy my course. Going to university was a very important experience for me – it helped me to become independent.
There will always be ups and downs. I have high expectations for myself and get stressed about assignments like everyone else. Even if you struggle it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t go to university.
You don’t need to be productive all the time: you also need to look after yourself. You’ll have days when you need to rest. Don’t beat yourself up about it. Sometimes it’s the best thing you can do for your course!