In the wake of her graduation, Emily (Set 42) looks back on her time at Norland and how her training has empowered her to follow her passions for caring for children with additional learning needs and continuing her education.

Emily was told a university education was “unrealistic” when she was diagnosed with additional learning needs during her school years. In March, Emily graduated from Norland after completing both her BA (Hons) degree in Early Years Development and Learning and the prestigious Norland Diploma. Recently, Emily moved to New York City to begin her dream job.

How has growing up with dyspraxia, dyslexia, and dyscalculia informed your practice today? 

“Growing up I often struggled with education and at times I would get frustrated because of others’ perceptions of my abilities and what the extent of my struggles in school meant for the expectations of my future. At primary school, my mum was told I may never read or write, which made me even more determined to succeed. Yet, when I expressed my wish to study at university level, it was often seen as unrealistic. 

“I owe a lot to the teachers who believed in me and took the time to teach me when my understanding was delayed, and the teachers who would think outside the box to find a different method to help me understand, instead of just accepting that I would struggle.  

“My passion for supporting children with additional learning needs and disabilities now stems from more than just my own lived experience, it is also based on my experiences working for charities that support people with disabilities.  

“I love being creative when it comes to solving problems, and I ensure that everything I do in my practice is inclusive. My approach to care has empowering children at its core. I love my job because it feels like a never-ending opportunity to learn enabling me to combine everything I have learned before, during and after Norland to support me in providing a safe and secure environment for all the children I work with.”  

A female Norland Nanny at her graduation in Bath Abbey

What support did you receive from Norland with regards to your specific learning needs?  

“At Norland, I was given extra time and had the opportunity to have some of my work proofread if I felt I needed it. Lecturers were always willing to repeat things to me if I struggled to understand.  

“Because of my dyspraxia, I really struggled with sewing in my first year. During reading week, the lecturers spent three full days helping me to learn to sew and supporting me with my assignments. At Norland, the lecturers always had time for me even if I just needed reassurance, which I really appreciated.  

“To others, I would say never shy away from your learning difficulties. It can make it harder at times if you do. Remember Norland staff are there to help you, as soon as I asked for the support it was there. Eventually my lecturers got to know me well enough that I didn’t even need to ask, they just knew how to support me to reach my potential.  

“In one of my first lectures in my first year at Norland, my lecturer told me that learning difficulties are secretly a superpower. As much as this raised my confidence, and is a testament to the community at Norland, I also learned this is completely true. There have been so many times throughout my career where my levels of empathy and creativity in discovering new ways to support children have stemmed from my own lived experiences and the support and patience I was given.”  

What were some of your most memorable moments from your time at Norland?  

“During the Black Lives Matter movement in 2020, I became part of Norland’s anti-discrimination team. In 2019, I went to New York to work as a counsellor at a summer camp with a predominantly under-privileged demographic, which taught me so much about the world around me.  

“I shared my experience at the camp and explained why more inclusive and diverse lectures, especially lectures on white privilege, should be an important element of our practice as early years practitioners.  

“I also had the opportunity to do a video interview for the My Norland Story campaign and share how I came to Norland. I have had so many messages from applicants who have watched my video saying I have helped them; I feel a great sense of pride in this.  

“In my final year at Norland, I started the social justice team to hear more student voices on social issues, and we held Norland’s first ever Pride. Now that I have left Norland, I really enjoy hearing about all the ways Norland openly continues to promote inclusivity and how more and more students are truly feeling that they can be themselves.”  

Four female Norland Nanny students in their uniform in London taking a selfie

How did you fund your studies whilst living in Bath?  

“The financial aspect of Norland and life in Bath was an obstacle for me. My family and community helped raise the money for my uniform fees which were over £1,000. I also received an Emily Ward bursary from Norland which helped to cover the tuition fees along with my student loan and support from my family. 

“I also worked part time as a retail assistant and support worker, and during term holidays I worked as a nanny. During the pandemic, Norland gave me extra financial support as it was not possible to work, which was very helpful.  

“My biggest advice to anyone who is worried about studying at Norland from a financial standpoint is to take it one step at a time, and to not shy away from asking for support. Working alongside my studies opened a lot of doors for me, it meant I got to work and experience a different side of Bath too.”  

 What was your Newly Qualified Nanny (NQN) year like?  

“During my NQN year, I went to London and worked with a three-year-old boy, supporting him and his family through his ASD (autism spectrum disorder) diagnosis. I already had a lot of experience working with children who struggled to regulate their emotions alongside the theory and reading I had done at Norland I wrote my dissertation on supporting children with additional learning needs.  

“With a wealth of knowledge behind me, I was able to support him. Not only as his nanny, but also as his one-to-one support worker in nursery. I worked hard to empower him to regulate his emotions, through emotion coaching, which enabled him to develop holistically and take part in more groups and activities outside of his tuition and his home.  

“It was amazing to see him flourish. Other practitioners working with him would notice how much calmer and engaged he was at nursery and during other activities. I took so much pride that everyone began to see the fun, confident, cheeky and outgoing little boy, who had become my best friend.”  

A female Norland Nanny in her practical uniform with a children's cape that she'd sewn

What do you think anyone in the early years should know about working with children with additional learning needs or suspected/diagnosed neurodiversity?  

“There should definitely be a lot more support for children with suspected neurodiversity in the early years, but I think the most important thing about supporting any child is getting to know the individual child.  

“I love my job because every single child I work with will teach me something new or give me the opportunity to find a new way to support them and help them learn. Everyone understands things in their own way and children are no different; when you are willing to be patient and occasionally think outside the box, the impact you can have is truly magical.

“The breakthrough moment when you finally realise what works for each child is the most rewarding feeling I have ever experienced.”  

How do you plan to build on your Norland training in the future? 

“Eventually, I want to go on to study for a master’s degree in special education and supporting children with challenging behaviour then, possibly, a PhD in educational psychology. As part of my US visa programme, I am required to study so I have been looking into courses that could support my master’s application, or in American Sign Language.  

“I have a dream that one day I will open a non-profit nursery which focusses on early intervention for neurodiverse children and those with behavioural needs, and centres around giving them the extra support they need to regulate their emotions.  

“As a result of my Norland training and working with children with special educational needs, I am confident in my practice. Norland has opened so many doors for me, so I know this is something I can make possible.” 

How has your Norland training prepared you for future study?  

“The level of academic study at Norland has given me the confidence that I can do further study. Being able to put the theory behind my practice through my degree and diploma has given me the hunger to learn more.”  

A female Norland Nanny student on her degree graduation day with her family

You recently secured your dream job of working in New York City, less than a few months after becoming a fully qualified Norland Nanny, what is that like?  

“Working in New York has always been a dream of mine. I am now a few weeks into my job here and myself and my new charge, a one-year-old girl, are already a great team. I am excited to grow with this family and am already watching my charge pick up new words and phrases! 

“I feel very lucky that I already had friends in New York, after working upstate in 2018 and 2019. These friends made sure I felt instantly at home when I returned.  

“I now work in lower Manhattan, and I am loving exploring the city through the eyes of my little charge. I enjoy supporting her development with creative activities and I am so excited to grow this already strong bond with my employer family.”  

Reflecting on her daughters’ achievements, Emily’s mother Lynne said: “To see Emily in her dream job in her dream location of New York is simply amazing and words can’t describe how proud I am of her and all that she has achieved.  

“Emily has never let her dyspraxia, dyslexia and dyscalculia hold her back, once she’s set her heart on a goal her determination and focus ensure she finds a way to achieve it.” 

A female sat on a bridge in New York City
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Student outreach presentation – Peter Symonds College

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Virtual presentation – Ilkley Grammar School

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Open day – 12 October 2024

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