For many potential mature students the thought of going to University fills them full of fear and dread, yet they would love to have a Degree in their chosen subject area but lack the confidence and self-belief. Having a local college, such as the Rhondda campus of Coleg y Cymoedd, enables students to study at Foundation Degree level without feeling pressurized or fear of failure, I know I was one of those students. In 2008 to 2010, I studied at the Rhondda campus, completing a 2 year Foundation Degree in Childhood Studies; the course was flexible and ‘fitted’ in with my full time employment. Following completion of my studies I went on to complete my BSc, gaining a 1st Class (hons), at the University of Glamorgan (Now known as the University of South Wales).
Although many of the students on the course worked as teaching assistants, early years practitioners and nursery nurses the course extends further than that. The course was applicable for those with a variety of backgrounds such as, those engaged in a variety of child and youth related settings, for example; special/additional needs or those working in areas relating to other teaching and learning environments. The course helped us, as students, to understand that the first few years of children’s lives are crucial to their development extending opportunities for choices in later life. Adults who work with children and young people are ideally placed to make a difference.
There was an emphasis on developing knowledge, skills and understanding related to the workplace during this course. I feel that work experience placements in the local community are an integral part of the course. Negotiations through a variety of settings such as schools, nurseries, social services, children’s services in the voluntary sector, together with other relevant settings gave students an opportunity to explore theory in relation to the implications for practice enabling them to evaluate and develop appropriate approaches to work with children, young people and their families.
I manage a charitable organisation in the voluntary sector working with children and young people with a disability aged 11 – 30 years old. The course certainly helped to extend my expertise as a practitioner, building on my knowledge and skills, increasing my knowledge of children’s development and learning. This learning was transferred, as part of our work, onto the young people we work with.
I now employ three staff who also studied the Foundation Degree at Rhondda Campus, 2 of those students went on to complete their BSc (hons) Degree in Childhood Studies, and the other staff member decided that her studies were complete. From my own studies and support from the tutors, I believe that the employees developed an understanding of early childhood exploring how children develop, learn, and think and the importance of identifying and meeting children’s needs. It has certainly helped them to develop professional and practical skills like planning, assessment and teamwork, enhancing employability and building a solid foundation for further study.
Feedback from the staff that accessed this course said; ‘The tutors developed my knowledge and influenced my practice, raising my aspirations for myself and for all the children and young people that I come into contact with. I have grown personally and professionally and in turn I hope that I have had a positive influence on the lives of children and families who use our services. It was hard to maintain a family home and work, but tutor encouragement helped me to achieve my B.A. Hons. Degree a possibility that had previously felt so out of reach, my thanks go to tutors at the Rhondda campus’.
Rhondda campus is situated virtually on your doorstep with short travel times. It serves the community and has a high quality teaching team. As a mature student and returning to study for the first time in many years, the class size together with a supportive learning environment provided me with the necessary skills to succeed.