Tracey Hughes has always wanted to be a teacher. She left school with four O Levels and a secretarial certificate and worked as a secretary at a local school. In 2002 she decided to start working towards the qualifications she needed to fulfil her ambition to work with children. She and her husband had three young children and she also had to work while studying. She attended evening classes and achieved a Level 3 Teaching Assistant qualification, and then successfully applied for a job at the school and completed the Level 4 qualification on the job.
So what help did she have at this stage to plan her route to reach her goal? Staff at the school were helpful and encouraging. Tracey was determined to find a pathway that would lead to teaching and searched for and checked much of the information she needed herself. She contacted and visited local colleges, attended open evenings and weighed up the options. A degree in Childhood Studies was a possibility but, "I didn't think I was clever enough to do the full degree" says Tracey. The part-time Foundation degree in Early Years seemed more practical and work-based and provided the option to progress to the final year of the honours degree in Childhood Studies. Both required some attendance at Stockport College and the qualifications are awarded by Liverpool John Moores University.
In 2007 Tracey started a new full-time job as a Teaching Assistant at a primary school and started her degree at the same time. At the interview for the job she asked for one afternoon a week release to attend college and for support in carrying out work- based assignments. The school has allocated a mentor to Tracey. No funding support was available, so she has funded herself with a student loan. She researched and made these choices herself, checking at this stage with the TDA that this route would make her eligible to apply for the work-based GTP (Graduate Teacher Programme). She will be able to undertake this in her current workplace.
The Foundation degree has proved to be as practical and relevant to current working practices as hoped, although "hard work and time-consuming". Projects and assignments have benefited the school and the children and have helped Tracey to become a reflective practitioner, concerned with improving the quality of her work.
The second year of the Foundation degree has required the development of considerable independent study and research skills. Fortunately, Tracey can request assistance from school staff and from her peers. There is a student forum and Tracey is the Student Representative for the course.
She has now gained confidence and is looking forward to progressing to the Honours degree and to the GTP. However, the formal career information and planning session for the course has yet to take place so she has had to take responsibility for thinking this through for herself. She will need to fit in a GCSE science course at evening class while completing her degree and is currently looking at local options.
Tracey has used a wide range of sources of information and advice to plan her route to teaching.
Where could more information and advice have been helpful before she started? In three main areas:
- Early assistance with career planning to ensure that the chosen route was going to lead to a career in teaching and how to meet any additional entry requirements through local work-based learning
- Financial planning to ensure that all possible discounts, benefits, entitlements and subsidies apply (an information pack would have been useful)
- Preparation for the challenges of higher level learning; the skills needed for independent study, research and time management.
The Foundation degree in Early Years has been a major step for Tracey in a complex route to teaching combining work, study and a hectic family life. She will achieve her goal to become a qualified teacher when she is 40.