Placements make up around half of our course and allow our students to put everything they have learned on the degree and diploma into practice. 

Placement settings are varied with students benefitting from a minimum of six placements in a range of environments including nurseries, maternity and paediatric hospital wards, primary and special educational needs schools, forest schools and with families.

Second-year student Katie has written a placement diary, providing us with an interesting insight into her six week live-in family placement, the flexibility of the course during coronavirus and the uniqueness of studying at Norland.

My name is Katie, I am in Set 43 at Norland and currently in my second year. This blog post is a diary from my six-week family placement in the first term of my second year, caring for a boy of two years (B2) and his 12-week old twin sisters. I spent two weeks with the family on a live-in placement at the beginning of term in September, and a further four weeks living with them in November. I am very grateful to have the opportunity to build these bonds and relationships with children and families through our placements. During such unprecedented times, we are especially fortunate that we can still have these learning experiences safely and provide much needed support to families and communities.

For a live-in placement, typical hours are 8am–6pm Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, and 8am–3pm on Thursday, returning home for the weekend. We have Fridays off to catch up on our degree work and placement paperwork such as learning journals and observations.

A typical morning during this placement would start with me preparing breakfast for B2 and myself, and bottle-feeding his 12-week old twin sisters or supporting their mum with breastfeeding. Then each day would vary to suit the children’s routines with naps and mealtimes, and what we had planned for the day. I chose to work in the evenings until all of the children were bathed and in bed, which was usually by 6.45pm. I wanted to do this to gain experience of doing both bath time and bedtime, and also to support the parents as much as I could.

a female student smiling

Week one

This week was the first of my four week live-in family placement in November. Having been with them for two weeks earlier in the term, I noticed how much they had grown and developed since I saw them last.

Following the announcement of a second national lockdown in November, the children’s mum and I were keen to pack in the days out before places had to sadly close. We visited a farm and saw the animals, which B2 absolutely loved, and we had a look around the farm shop which was great for B2 to see where produce comes from and how it is incorporated into his food. There were so many learning opportunities and the environment was perfect for exploring new language and encouraging sensory experiences. It enabled me to draw on my knowledge from module lectures on Physical Development and Communication, and Language and Literacy – as well as many others. The twins also enjoyed the farm as they love being outside and there was so much stimulation for them with all the sights and sounds! We also had a day out visiting Cheddar Gorge and Wells – which meant lots of walking for B2 and he did really well, understanding about road safety and listening to his mummy and me. I was very proud of him!

The prospect of many places being shut for families was a daunting one for both the children’s mum and me. The social aspect for both adults and children is much needed and we had lots of conversations about how we could make things as normal and positive as possible for the children and ourselves. We planned lots of walks exploring the local footpaths for the coming weeks to continue to give the children and ourselves the time outdoors to have fun, explore and ensure our general wellbeing.

some green space with trees and an old building

Week two

My second week of placement was altered slightly as I awaited COVID test results from the father on my placement. Given the wait times on testing, I could not return to my placement until the Tuesday afternoon when the results came back negative, which was a huge relief! Over the Monday and Tuesday, I could complete observations on B2 from videos and photos his mum kindly sent me, enabling me to add to his learning journal. I also continued writing up my activity plans for B2 and meal planning for the weeks ahead in this time. With the experience of this past year and all the adaptations that have been made by Norland and the placement team, we are fortunate that we can continue our studies and maintain our high standard of work in the face of all sorts of circumstances in this turbulent time.

Once I could return to placement, I was able to get stuck back into activities with B2, going out for lots of walks and finding ways to make the most of what was available to us in lockdown. On Remembrance Day, we did a painting activity using corks and red paint to create poppies and I evidenced this in his learning journal. This activity was great for supporting the development of his fine-motor skills and exploring paint as a sensory experience.

We also visited the local beach for a walk to make the most of ways in which we could create exciting days out for the children. We collected rocks for rock painting, ran races, had a hot chocolate and B2 jumped in as many rockpools as he could! Getting outside as much as possible has been so important for us all in lockdown and is amazing for all our wellbeing, as well as being rich in learning opportunities and sensory experiences.

Ensuring the emotional wellbeing of B2 was particularly important to me on this placement as I recognise how much change he has gone through this year and the huge transitions he has had to make as such a little person. Having new baby sisters was a big change that he is still adjusting to and I took extra care in talking to him about his feelings surrounding this and reassuring him that I was there and I cared, even when I needed to attend to the needs of the babies. This drew on the skills I have been learning from all aspects of my degree and diploma and is something I worked incredibly hard on with B2; nurturing his emotional needs and wellbeing.

stones in the shape of a house on a beach

Week three

Week three of my placement was busy with lots of cooking, crafting and walking! I have been cooking every day on my placement, and did so during my placement in September as well. This has been great preparation for the future and has really built upon my time management skills when cooking and creating well balanced and exciting meal plans for the family. It has been really fun coming up with meal plans and introducing B2 to new flavours and textures. Cooking for a toddler and for a family has brought in lots of skills I have learnt in my Food and Nutrition classes such as batch cooking and creating food that is visually appealing and exciting for children. Including B2 while I am cooking has been really fun and he loves seeing the process and end result on his plate.

We also went for a walk around Chew Valley Lake and explored the wildlife and plants around the lake. This was a lovely morning out and meant B2 was definitely ready for his nap! Encouraging B2 to explore nature and the outdoor environment has played a big part in this placement for me as we were lucky enough to have lots of spaces to play in and explore throughout lockdown. Through this I was able to draw in aspects from my Physical Development lectures, Physical Social and Emotional Development lectures and my diploma learning.

Being on placement and working with a family in lockdown has taught me a lot about how I can create fun, engaging and holistic activities from minimal resources and what is on hand in the home or in the garden. I was incredibly fortunate that my placement family had a lovely garden and local footpath right behind their house, which was an amazing resource for B2’s learning and the wellbeing of us all. Working in such extraordinary times has been an invaluable learning experience for myself and my peers.

a quiche

Week four

My final week of placement was very festive as I wanted to do lots of Christmas crafts and baking with B2 and the babies! The children’s mum and I painted each of the children’s hands and feet for printing, which I then turned into Christmas cards for them to give to family and friends. This activity was great fun and something that B2 could do alongside his sisters and we talked all about shapes, colours, textures and animals whilst painting.

B2 and I also made mince pies which we had for pudding one evening and this was a great activity for fine motor skills, learning new words, and learning about numbers through weighing and timing the food in the oven. B2 loved using his cutters to create shapes for the mince pies and adding festive sprinkles for decoration. Sometimes cooking with young children can be a challenge with all the utensils and hot surfaces, but I found the more I discussed the risks with B2 and explained how we can be safe in the kitchen, the more he could get involved and he started to remember and recognise times at which he needed to take a step back and watch what I was doing.

On my final day of placement, we visited the local garden centre to look at all the wonderful displays and so that mum could do some Christmas shopping while I was still there to help out. This was a lovely way to spend my last day and it was so special for the children to see all the decorations and magical displays! B2 was in awe of all the sparkles, colours and lights and it was also an amazing sensory experience for the twins. B2 showed a lot of self-control with all the tempting baubles and delicate ornaments around, and his mum and I were very proud!

Finding the silver linings in lockdown and being innovative with activities and experiences has definitely added a unique element to this placement but I have had so much fun with it and I am really proud of what I have achieved!

As students we are so lucky to be able to have these experiences with the families who take us on placement and we are able to learn such a lot from both the children and their parents. This is part of what makes Norland so unique; the experiences and opportunities we have are so special and create wonderful memories!

a tray of mince pies

Photos from Katie's placement

the sea and a cliff
a child cutting a star into dough
a child printing with paint
a sunset in the countryside

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