We caught up with Early Years Practitioner Jacinta Murphy who completed her BA (hons) degree in Early Childhood Studies with Portobello Institute

What made you choose to complete your degree with Portobello Institute?

I considered a lot of the other degrees and spoke to people who had completed their level 7 - there were a number of factors that I really wanted to know about. When researching content of other courses I was immediately drawn to the content of the degree offered by Portobello Institute. While most degrees have a Leadership element it is mainly a theory based stand alone module. The course at Portobello Institute embeds leadership through every module. The content is reflective and practice based which also really interested me. There is no final exam as all modules are continually assessed with written practice based assignments.  Also the degree at Portobello Institute is accredited by London Metropolitan University. The university has a research budget of £54 million annually with research projects carried out in collaboration with other universities internationally. This means the content of the programme is really modern, up to date, reflective of the changes in modern day society and how that is impacting our children in their early years. Initially I completed the level 7 programme, but with an insatiable hunger for learning I progressed on to complete the level 8 to gain a BA (hons) degree in Early Childhood Studies and will continue to study further.

Also the mode of delivery really suited me - I was keen to do a degree and further my studies but I am working full time and already I am juggling home and work life.  The Blended Learning option suited the time I had available. Rather than spending time commuting to sit in a class for 3 hours twice each week, my time was spent using these hours studying at home. I never felt alone in my studies as the support tutors were readily available to answer and queries I had. Add to that the cost of petrol, babysitters and the costs soon add up - so from every perspective this course just made more sense to me. .

What changes have you demonstrated as a practitioner since completing the degree?

I am a qualified Montessori teacher with 30 years experience but since completing this degree I have seen a huge change in my skills and competencies as a practitioner.  Before I studied with Portobello, I thought I was a good leader.  Now with a degree qualification under my belt my confidence in my approach has grown significantly.  With further study and practice I naturally progressed into a stronger confident leader with a more rounded understanding of practices in an early years setting and the underpinning reasons why we do what we do. I believe, even after 30 years as a Montessori teacher, I am now a better teacher than ever.

Through this degree, I learned about working in partnership and collaboration with both the parents and the child. I have a new appreciative awareness of the individual child’s need and I now feel I can offer a stronger support in their learning and development. At level 6 the setting can be very structured but after completing this degree I appreciate the benefits of creating a freer environment for the child.  Holders of this qualification can avail of the higher capitation from the DYCA which is a huge advantage to a room leader or school owner.  I also feel parent’s place great value on a school that can boast it has a graduate led staff and approach.

What modules do you feel best have enhanced your offering as a practitioner?

Because all of the assignments are practice based upon completing each module you will see an immediate effect in your practice and provision. For example, the challenging inequalities module helped me change my approach to meet the needs of and work in a truly collaborative way with the diverse range of families and issues in my school.

Personal, social and emotional development allowed me to better understand the needs of children in this regard. Our society has changed so much over the past 15 years and we now have children from across Europe and particularly Eastern Europe living here and attending our early years settings. It is so important to understand how to communicate in a multi-lingual context that supports care and education for children and their families who are bi or multi-lingual. This programme encouraged me to think creatively and to further understand the many facets of creativity, and how creativity and imagination are the basis for learning and developing throughout life.

Approaches to curriculum and pedagogy explores various approaches within early years care and education and their implementation, and helps us analyse why do we teach the way we do. As an experienced Montessori teacher, I thought I really understood this element however the programme led me to a much deeper understanding and has enhanced my ability to truly understand the requirements needed to provide quality practice and provision.

What would your advice be to those who are thinking about doing the degree?

Just go for it.  There is never a right time to start a new course as people have very busy lives managing work and family.  I have no regrets and I believe I am a better practitioner.  The changes I have devised and implemented within my setting are based on the reflective/reflexive practice I learned during the programme.  I would say any learner, or indeed employer will start to see an immediate impact in their setting.

For further information on the Early Childhood Studies Degree Level 7 please contact Jennifer Matteazzi on 01 892 0040 or email Jennifer.matteazzi@portobelloinstitute.ie