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After having a careers interview just before my 17th Birthday, I decided to apply to a local college for a place on the course for nursery Nursing. They had changed the name to Childcare and Education at that time.
They said that they usually had around 500 applications for about 80-100 places.
The first year was spent doing subjects like Child Development, care and feeding of babies, play, introduction to child protection, introduction to special needs, food and nutrition just to name a few. There were 12 subjects in all. For the first year at college we all got state nursery placements for the first 4 months. We would spend 3 weeks at a time in placement where we would observe the children and liase with the staff to build on the children's play. For example I would observe a child picking leaves in the nursery garden. If they took them inside and left them in the glueing corner, what ways could I extend this to the art area? You also began to learn how to work within a team and take part in planning meetings and learn about how a nursery worked.
I had 3 placements in my 1st year. 1 in a nursery class which was attached to a school, 1 in a Primary one class (similar to a reception class I am led to believe) and a nursery school which was completely independent from any school and would provide all day care. My second year I was placed in a Primary 1 and a nursery which had a special needs unit and meant that I worked in mainstream and gave me the experience of special needs children.
Looking back the first year was a lot of work but a lot of help was given to you. About Easter time some people in my class were given letters warning them that they may not have secured a place on the HNC in Child Care and Education course. I didn't get one and it was a couple of weeks before I found out what was actually in the letters. If you couldn't get through the first year with the help, there was no way you would get through the second year. The HNC was a more in depth course which you had to do a lot of research yourself. It was a very stressful year attempting to do all the course work, be in placement and also do the placement course work as well. It was a struggle but 4 days before I left for New York for a summer job, I got a letter to say that I had passed the course and would graduate the day after I flew out. It was such a relief to know that all my late nights and hard work had paid off and I was now a qualified Nursery Nurse. It was a qualification and no one could take that away from me.
After 10 weeks in New York, It was time to come home and make a decision on what I wanted to do. There were a number of options open to me.
- Nanny which would mean being in soul charge of children while their parents worked. Wasn't something which appealed to me at all. My friend loves Nannying but it isn't for everyone.
- Working in a nursery, This could mean a private nursery for low pay and long hours but a job with your foot on the employment ladder or in a state nursery longer holidays, slightly higher pay, but mostly doing the same job, of preparing activities for the children and giving children a good start on the education ladder. The private nursery would give me a wider range of ages of children to work with whereas the state nursery would only give preschool children a place.
- Special Needs, I could go and work with special needs children, either on a one to one at home or in a nursery setting specifically for children with special needs.
- Working in a maternity ward. Some hospitals offer a nursery nurse who is there to help new mums learn the basics of caring for a baby, such as changing nappies, bathing, helping with feeding, showing how to make up bottles etc. I'd actually love to do this but personally the hours are just too long with my children being so young.
- Doing Supply either for the Local Authority or for a private agency. This means you are On Call and get a phone call asking you to work and then you travel to a nursery or a parents home to help cover sickness, holidays etc. This is what I plan to do for the local authority in about 18 months time once Murray is settled at nursery.
- Working along side Health Visitors. Some poorer area's in the country offer a nursery nurse to work along side the HV to help parents learn how to parent. They are also there to help them learn to play and be there and build relationships with the parents and children.
- Working in a hospital, some children's hospitals have nursery nurses on the wards who either care for the children or are in a specific playroom where children who are in hospital and are able to go to the playroom and take part in organised activities.
- Work in a playgroup. This is a group for younger children usually from about teh age of 2 where children can go along and basically play. Activities are offered and this gives the children an introduction to socialising if they haven't been in a nursery or childminder before. Usually a great way to introduce them to a less formal setting before nursery.
There are lots of choices which you can choose to do. Everyone is different and what's suits one person may not suit another person. Sometimes nursery nurses can change jobs for a few times before they find a job which suits them. Some people do the course looking for an easy life. This is not an easy job and takes a lot thought and planning. It can be physically as well as mentally exhausting as your provide various activities to help stimulate the children. I know someone who was forced into the course by her parents as they reckoned she was thick and that it would be a course that she could pass no bother. She had no interest in the course or the children and this resulted in her failing.
Before leaving school and actually applying for the course, I did voluntary work to get myself some experience. I did a junior youth club for children aged 4-12years one night a week and learned a lot of valuable things as the organiser was a nursery nurse too. I also helped a playgroup 2 mornings a week to get some experience of younger children. This was when I realised that this was the job for me. I remember the playgroup leader had another girl too helping and she stood behind the coffee bar every day and barely spoke to teh children. I couldn't understand why she stood there instead of being in the action with the children. I then went on to do Brownies when I went to college to keep my voluntary work up, but unfortunately when I got a full time job the times clashed with work and something had to give.
Nursery nursing is the sort of job that you don't do for the money. You do it because you love your job. It takes a lot of planning and often you have to go on courses to keep up to date with what is changing in education or learning new ways of doing things with the children. I gave up a lot of Saturday mornings because of these courses but they were worth it. I often took projects home and spent hours working on my idea's etc. I learned to work as part of a team and bandy idea's of each other and create new avenues to follow to develop and enhance a child's learning process.
So please think carefully before choosing nursery nursing as a career. It's not just playing with the children and having an easy time. It is a very important job.....You are helping the Next Generation Develop and Learn. To me this is an extremely important job which often gets overlooked. So if you want an easy job......look to do something else.