Learner stories: "One of the best decisions of my life"
Ellie Scadden is currently studying for an Education and Early Years T Level – a high-quality, work-focused alternative to A Levels for those aged 16-18. After completing her two-year course at Scarborough Sixth Form College, she hopes to progress on to become a primary school teacher.
We caught up with her to see how the T Level is preparing her for higher education and beyond.
Why did you choose to study a T Level?
“I chose to study a T Level as the course that I was applying to included industry placement experience. When I first applied to the course, I knew that I wanted to work with children, but I was unsure of what type of setting I wanted to do this in.
“I am both an academic and visual learner and knew that this course would fit my learning style, as I am able to attain knowledge within the classroom, and then apply it to my practice in placement to support my learning. The layout of the course also appealed to me as it was consistent with both college and placement.
“My college offers a week-in, week-out programme, where we completed one week at college and the next we attend placement. As well as this, the experiences and the resources that the T Level has provided helped me make my decision to complete this course, as it allows you to act as a practitioner; creating and planning activities to support children’s learning in placement the following week, whilst also supporting your own learning and understanding.”
What have been the highlights of the course so far?
“Placement has definitely been my main highlight from this course. I have attended three different placements, which have allowed me to work closely with practitioners to extend my own learning and experiences. Placement providers and staff make you feel very welcome, and they fully support you with how to meet the needs of their children.
“They provide you with experiences that you often wouldn’t be able to do, such as engaging the children in your own phonics lesson, promoting the children’s learning, but also your own. As you spend large amounts of time in the setting, you effectively become one of the staff members, and receive amazing feedback and support with your work. Placement has been an amazing learning experience and has helped me decide what I would like to do with my future.
“Another highlight of this course would be the people that you meet along the way. As well as creating special bonds with placement providers and the children, you also share the same experiences with your peers. Everyone is passionate about what they are doing and creating, and you all support each other in meeting your own goals.
“The T Level allows you to work collaboratively in order to build on your team working skills which you can carry with you into placement.”
What have your industry placements been like?
“I have attended placements in three different types of settings; a day nursery, a primary school and a pre-school. Each of these placements has been a unique experience and have allowed me to develop my skills. I have had the opportunity to learn how to plan and deliver lessons in a school, as well as meeting the needs of individuals with a special educational need or disability.
“I have engaged in meeting the care needs of children, supporting them to learn to talk and learn to walk, as well as supporting children to read, write, count, recognise their name and use their manners. No day is the same at placement, but that is what you learn to treasure.
“Sadly, although placement provides you with incredible experiences and bonds with the children, it also opens doors to unfortunate experiences, that you equally learn from. During one of my placements, I was approached by a child who disclosed information about their home life, that understandably needed to be passed on to the appropriate individuals immediately.
“Although this is a heart-breaking experience, it also changed who I am as a practitioner today. I am now aware of all the signs of abuse, including the small factors that, to those who do not know, are seen as nothing. I now ensure that I am aware of all the setting’s policies and procedures around safeguarding upon arrival, and I am fully aware of the actions to take if this arises again. Although this is an upsetting experience to have, it also means that I have experience of the actions to take, and if I wasn’t there to support that child at that time, they may still not have told anyone.”
In what ways has the T Level prepared you for your next steps?
“The T Level provides you with large amounts of self-confidence. This is through both placement and the work that you complete at college. You learn to work collaboratively and work alongside other practitioners to support the needs of young children.
“I have had the opportunity to work with parents and carers, external agencies to support individual needs, designated safeguarding leads and officers, as well as managers and practitioners to support my own practice.
“The T Level is a hard course; however, it prepares you for university and the knowledge that you will need to succeed. I have applied to a primary education course, and the knowledge and placement experiences that you will need is something that I already have, so I am two steps ahead of others already.
“You learn the correct terminology to use around children, the correct language for children who have a special educational need or disability and meeting the needs of children becomes second nature. I have learned how to plan activities for all children, and how to risk assess areas for children.”
What are your future plans?
“I have now just finished applying to university and have offers to my first and second choice. Because of my experience in a primary school, I am now looking to study to become a Primary Teacher. Without this experience, I am not sure that I would be doing this, and instead would stay in a nursery.
“The knowledge and experience that the T Level has provided me with has allowed me to get into university and be successful at interviews. T Levels are highly valued by universities because of the experience and knowledge that comes with them. My school placement provider influenced my decision to take my education further.
“No other course or apprenticeship could provide you with both the knowledge and experience that you gain from completing a T Level in Education and Early Years. This course allows you to learn new skills in the classroom, and then implement them in practice, whilst asking for feedback from the professionals you are working with.
“I have gained so much experience from this T Level, and I would not know half as much as I do now if I had gone a different route. This course has fully prepared me for the next steps in my education, and I am able to plan for children and conform to being a practitioner, and I have not yet completed the course.
“This course has been one of the best decisions of my life, and I have had the most incredible support and experiences, which I would recommend to anyone who is unsure of where they want their career with children to take them."
Learn more about T Levels and the range of qualifications available by visiting our T Levels webpage.
Name: Ellie Scadden
Qualification: Education and Early Years T Level
Centre: Scarborough Sixth Form College
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