My name is Olivia, I’m in Set 43 (a second-year student) and I’m from Dorset. Before coming to Norland, I decided to take a gap year and nannied for a family. I cared for three charges and this experience confirmed my love and aspiration to work with families and pursue an early years career.

A week at Norland can only be described as an exciting blend of skills, academic knowledge, experiential learning, as well as teamwork and diverse experiences, all of which contribute to earning the Norland degree and diploma. One week is different to the next, which makes the journey with Norland immensely stimulating and rewarding.

a female student in her formal uniform smiling

This week started with a lecture for the Professional Development: Play and Learning degree module in which we learned about cultural and technological influences on play. In small groups we discussed childhood experiences of play and nursery rhymes and it was really interesting to compare favourite nursery rhymes and songs.

We also discussed the use of media within our childhood which was a fascinating comparison, looking at different ages, geographical locations and experiences. For example, we discussed the different ages we had a mobile phone, at what age we had social media accounts and which ones we were allowed access to first, such as MySpace and Facebook. These discussions emphasised that all childhood experiences are unique, which is at the heart of Norland’s teaching and practice within the early years. We also learned about ethical research and were given a mini research project task within our breakout groups to research what a personal relaxing environment is to each of us.

At Norland, we’re assessed in a variety of ways. The next day we had an assessment for our Thriving in Diversity degree module which involved researching the role of Team Around the Child (TAC) meetings and working with multi-agency bodies. In a group, we staged a TAC meeting with each student taking on a role from the chosen case study, which allowed the scene to be set for our reflection. Following on from this, we broke out into smaller groups for a 15-minute reflection on our TAC meeting.

Since the start of the pandemic, I have found Norland to be efficient and supportive. Staff have ensured consistent communication in facilitating the degree and diploma online. Currently most of our teaching is face-to-face on site (about 80%) but some is online.

We’ve been lucky enough to be able to use the food and nutrition (F&N) room and use the sewing machines again. In our last F&N lecture before Easter, we made lamb pies with a top and bottom shortcrust pastry. Flavoured with seasoning and rosemary, it was a delicious recipe for Easter and a family meal. We also made Easter biscuits which were delicious and a perfect Easter activity with charges. The recipes that we are taught are always adaptable to meet different dietary requirements, allergies and parental preferences.

In sewing, we’re currently being assessed on creating an interactive pillow for an early years setting. Our assessment criteria were to use upcycled fabric, machine button holes and plaques which allows us to be creative and explore new sewing techniques and skills. Look out for our finished projects on the Norland social media channels!

a homemade pie

The week concluded with lectures following on with the modules we covered earlier in the week. We learned about enabling environments and what they may look like within the early years. Enabling environments allow for accessible resources in which practitioners respond to the individual needs of a child. These can range from exploring the outdoors to an indoor calming and cosy corner to read their favourite books. From this, we made our own enabling environments by using various blankets, pillows and activities which would benefit a child’s overall wellbeing and development.

We discussed our mini research project highlighting the ethical and unethical methods used and how to obtain ethical research data within the early years. A lecturer gave us an insight in to research being carried out in the home, how to make it ethical and the potential challenges. This allowed me to consider a possible methodology for my dissertation next year. I am thinking of discussing the idea of ‘it all starts and end in the home’ and exploring how a child’s upbringing and education in the early years is so important in making them well-rounded adults in society.

Later this term, I’m looking forward to putting all my skills and experiences into practice (especially cooking skills) on my six-week residential family placement in Bath with two charges aged 10 months and four years.

an enabling environment for a child
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