Louise Roberts is the Curriculum Manager for Early Years at New College Durham. As part of the preparations for delivering the Education and Childcare T Level from September 2020, Louise completed an Industry Insight placement at Little Jems Nursery. The placements are part of the T Level Professional Development support offer to provide opportunities for professional updating for teachers that is industry relevant and that facilitates knowledge transfer and professional exchange.
What were your key objectives when applying for a staff placement in industry?
I wanted to gain recent experience of working in an Early Years setting to increase credence with students in my classes through sharing recent examples from the workplace so that they would be better prepared for completing their industry placements. It was also important to explore the use of technology in an Early Years setting – particularly in relation to recording observations.
Additionally, I thought it would be useful to explore the responsibilities of each job role within the workplace setting through interaction and interviews with the staff, so that I could be completely up to date with current practice and share what I have learned with colleagues and students ahead of T Level delivery and student industry placements.
Tell us about your experience and the highlights from the placement
I found it useful to experience working with children of different ages again as it was a reminder of the aspects of the job that you don’t read about in a textbook. It was extremely interesting to speak to the staff about the changes they have seen over the years and how they have kept up to date with these.
Exploring the different techniques for recording observations has enabled me to develop a higher level of competence when using apps designed for this which will support me to develop new and relevant resources for use within the classroom that will meet the requirements of the T Level qualifications. My experience will also allow me to better prepare our students for the workplace.
What did you value the most about engaging with Little Jems Nursery?
Early years’ practice does not change as swiftly as other sector areas but there are still some changes that will impact on the skills our students need. For example, many students will have placements in settings that do not use technology to record developmental progress, so they may then be disadvantaged when applying for jobs if they don’t develop their digital skills when in the classroom to understand how technology is used in practice.
I also observed that we need to further develop the transferrable skills of students as parents are expecting a high quality of care for their children and are asking questions and potentially challenging the processes used. This means that the students need to be confident with their underpinning knowledge of why they do things a particular way and also be aware of alternative options. They would also need to have the skills and confidence to be able to handle potentially challenging situations with parents and to achieve a positive outcome.
What has been the impact on you, your colleagues and your organisation?
I have updated my skills and benefitted from a reminder about the challenges in the workplace. I have developed more up to date skills with regards to technology and this has made me more confident in my classroom teaching. I now feel better prepared to deliver the T Level curriculum.
I have learned that we will need to implement more activities within the classroom that explore the required skill development so that students have the chance to practice them in a classroom environment where they can experiment and receive developmental feedback. This is likely to take the form of scenarios and role-play to develop negotiation skills and confidence in dialogue when facing professional challenges.
We are also developing newer and more innovative assessment techniques to develop wider vocational skills.
How will your experience positively impact on future T Level learners?
There has already been capital investment in iPads [by the College] to support the use of technology to enhance learning in the classroom and students are benefitting from the experience as they are more work-ready.
In the longer term, it is the intention that the IT students at the College will work alongside staff and students to support and develop their use of the technology.
Since my placement, we have had a guest speaker to talk to the students about the use of technology in workplace settings and we have used this opportunity to develop resources for use in the classroom.
We will also use the resources developed through the Teacher Regional Improvement Project (TRIP) to provide students with learning experiences that will build their confidence in the use technology as well as developing their digital literacy skills. This will prepare students for their industry placements.
For further information on the T Level Professional Development offer, please visit the programme page.