Learner stories: “I have never had an apprentice who is so dedicated” | NCFE

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Learner stories: "I have never had an apprentice who is so dedicated"

We spoke to Sinead Hall, a learner who was shortlisted in the 2023 NCFE Aspiration Awards for the Learner of the Year award. Sinead has recently completed her Level 3 Early Years Educator apprenticeship with Best Practice Network.

We also spoke to Sinead’s apprenticeship tutor, Emma Minchella, about why she nominated Sinead for the Learner of the Year award.  

Sinead – what encouraged your decision to study the Level 3 Early Years Educator qualification?  

“As chance would have it, over Covid I was offered a job working in a nursery. The owner knew me from my previous employment and had commented many times on how great I was with her children and thought I would really enjoy working with children. Although I had never worked in early years or even thought about working in this sector, excitement sparked in me and I agreed to go and work on a trial basis to see if I liked it.  

“Within days, I knew this was for me. I quickly realised how passionate I felt and how rewarding it was to be a part of supporting the development of our young children. I learned about apprenticeships, where your nursery and the Government co-fund the Level 3 programme fees, so after leaving school almost 30 years ago, I confronted this daunting, challenging task and went back to studying part-time.” 

What aspects of studying your qualification did you enjoy the most? 

“I thoroughly enjoyed all of it! I was interested in understanding how the mind of a child works. I liked learning about sustained shared thinking, where working together and adding the smallest details to a conversation or activity could open their imagination and extend their learning experience, not only in the early years, but how they can continue to use this skill throughout their life.                                                                              

“I really enjoyed learning about the different theorists (such as Piaget, Vygotsky, Bruner, Reggio Emila, Montessori and Froebel) and also the importance of the seven different areas in the early years foundation stage (EYFS). 

 “As one of my key children at the time had delayed speech, I delved into communication and language and saw firsthand the effects of using certain techniques and how they helped to advance the development of the child's speech. I was fortunate enough to work with the parents and a speech and language therapist allowing me to understand the importance of working in partnership.” 

What are the next steps for you after finishing this qualification?  

“Since I have finished my qualification, I wanted to further my career in the early years sector, so I have moved company and have recently started working with N Family Club. I was very inspired by their passion and forward-thinking approach, as well as their unique N curriculum.

"They take specific guidance from Jerome Bruner with his spirals learning; Maria Montessori where children can work at their own pace and make their own choices; Reggio Emilia where they inspire curiosity and use the environment as the third teacher, and my favourite, forest school where they help children to build confidence and self-esteem.”                                                                   

What advice would you give to others studying Level 3 Early Years Educator?    

“It might seem extremely scary to start with, especially if you've never worked within the early years sector. My advice would be to read through the book Early Years Educator by Penny Tassoni before starting the course. I would also advise asking lots of questions, there’s no such thing as a stupid question! My last tutor, Emma, was amazingly supportive and had a wealth of knowledge – so lean on your tutors.  

“Lastly, make sure that you have a supportive and knowledgeable mentor in your workplace; there are excellent nurseries to do your apprenticeship with so make sure you choose the right one that fits all your needs. It will make your learning experience much easier if you have a good learning environment around you.” 

Emma, can you tell us more about Sinead and why she was nominated for Learner of the Year? 

“Sinead is a mother of two and during her apprenticeship worked full-time in a small nursery with a small team. When I observed Sinead, it was evident that her practice was her passion. She would go above and beyond to support her setting and the children with whom she worked with, such as attending webinars and conducting her own research.   

“Her patience with the toddler children enabled them the time and support to grow their independence, she never rushed the children and always gave them the time they needed. She gave them praise often and taught them to persevere. 

I have never had an apprentice who is so dedicated!

Emma Minchella, Best Practice Network

“I have never had an apprentice who is so dedicated! Even when she was struggling to achieve her Functional Skills in maths, Sinead never gave up, and on the third attempt she passed. She juggled a lot to keep on track and I was delighted that her knowledge was recognised when she achieved a distinction for the Level 3 qualification. She was truly deserving of the grade as the effort she put in throughout her programme was outstanding!” 

To find out more about our apprenticeship offer, you can visit our apprenticeships page. 

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Learner profile

Name: Sinead Hall

Qualification: Level 3 Early Years Educator Apprenticeship

Centre: Best Practice Network

Pictured: Sinead Hall

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