At University of Bedfordshire the Faculty of Education & Sport has worked hard to develop early-years degree courses with childminders in mind. Karen Siddons, a senior tutor in early years, tells us more
Where and what exactly is UoB’s early-years offer?
We have a flexible foundation degree in Early Years Studies especially for those working in settings. It is either full time – eight hours a week – over two years or part time – four-hours a week – over two years and two terms. From this course, learners can progress to our BA (Hons) in Applied Early Years Studies course with the further opportunity to gain Early Years Teacher Status. Both courses are offered at our Milton Keynes and our Bedford campuses.
And how do these courses suit childminders?
The appeal for childminders is definitely that these are work-based courses so they don’t have to find additional placements outside of their usual work. They don’t need to take time out of work to achieve the qualification as their work is really a tool to help them achieve it, that’s what we mean by ‘applied’.
In your experience, what are the barriers to childminders achieving higher qualifications?
I think a lot are put off courses– as I was when I was a childminder – because they require you to gain wider work experience. We have re-written two of the modules in the foundation degree to be more in line with what childminders can provide evidence of. They now require childminders to be much more reflective on themselves and their own practice and on their practical work with children.
I think there is also an underestimation among the wider public of the value of the work childminders do and when they come to do our courses, one of the benefits for them is their self-esteem increases and that also benefits their practice and is something they take back to working with the children in their care.
How did you get into the early-years sector?
I joined UoB as a lecturer following 20 years working in early years and education. I started by working in a residential special school and then I had other roles with children; as a classroom assistant, managing my own nursery and then, when I had my own children, I wondered what it would be like to be a childminder and my practice just bloomed and I became part of a busy network of childminders.
I did my BA(Hons) in Early Years with the Open University and now I also have an MA in Professional Studies in Childhood from University College Birmingham.
So what are the UoB’s research interests in this field?
Raising the quality of the EY workforce and valuing, respecting and harnessing the child’s voice. Part of my role is researching how to grow the professionalism of childminders so that more families can benefit from the great work they do. If any childminders are interested in taking part in this research, I would love them to get in touch.
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