What our students say
Alumni reflections on the BA Education, Culture and Childhood
Bethany Mace, winner of the UG Dissertation Prize 2017
It is such an honour to be awarded the BA dissertation prize. It has been a very busy and stressful year but with the support of my friends, family, the school of Education & my dissertation supervisor, Chris Winter, I worked hard and completed my dissertation in a field of work I am very passionate about. I am doing my 5-11 Primary PGCE next year and hope to become a primary school teacher. I have learnt many skills whilst on the course and have had the opportunity to study a variety of subjects that have shaped my views of the teacher that I aspire to be. I am so grateful to have been awarded the prize and for the chance to study Education, Culture and Childhood at the University of Sheffield.
I absolutely loved studying the BA in Education, Culture and Childhood. One of my favourite elements of the course was its size; we all knew each other really well and this made it easy to get support from peers throughout the degree.
Before beginning university I wasn't sure whether I wanted to go into primary teaching, which is why I chose a degree that would leave this option open for me. After completing my placement in second year at an infant school I decided that, although I did not want to go into teaching, I did want to stay in the education sector. The BA has also left my options open if I want to go into teaching primary at a later age.
I cannot believe it's been almost 3 years since gradation but I feel privileged to have been part of the first cohort of students on the BA Education, Culture & Childhood degree programme at the University of Sheffield. Unlike most my peers, I decided not to go down the traditional route of doing a PGCE or further education. I wasn't sure what I wanted to do after graduation so I decided to have a gap year abroad and teach English in Thailand. It was interesting to compare the education system in the UK compared to Thailand and reflect on what I had learnt during my time at University, whilst also putting into practice some of the theories I had learnt about progressive teaching methods. Soon after returning from my gap year, I was offered a job and ended up moving to London where I currently work as a Senior Compliance Coordinator at a recruitment company based in Shoreditch. Although I'm not directly working within an education related field, I developed many important skills throughout this degree which are transferable within a working environment. For instance, strong written and verbal communication skills are essential to effectively communicate via email, telephone or in person. Organisation, analytical skills and time management are also imperative to get tasks completed to a high standard before the deadline. Having good interpersonal skills is also required when working with colleagues or dealing with clients. The strength of this degree lies in its disciplinary nature so even if you're not 100% sure about your next move, this course provides you with a broad range of skills and knowledge which will make you employable and able to excel within any working environment.
At age 24, having developed a strong interest in Inclusion through working in the education sector I applied for and started studying the BA Education, Childhood and Culture at University of Sheffield; it was the best thing I ever did. We were taught by the leaders in the field who were inspiring and passionate, and supported by an amazing, friendly and welcoming department. Our degree course was so interesting and varied, even when it blew our minds it was never boring! Not only did we get to expand and develop our theoretical knowledge of a wide variety of subjects, we were also given numerous opportunities to apply our knowledge and understanding in the real world, through placements, but also through modules which actively engaged with the local community.
The course was designed to push us to develop as well rounded graduates, but also took account of our personal interests and preferences at that same time. As such a small cohort it felt like a really personal degree experience that I know very few people are lucky enough to experience whilst at university. I really couldn’t have asked for more.
After graduating I went straight into a job in a local secondary school as an SEN Teaching Assistant. This was great experience, and I found it really interesting to be apply things I had learned in my degree course to my new role; especially my knowledge around SEN, play, and the psychology of difference.
After 8 months I applied for a job with a local charity as a Link Worker, working with homeless young people with complex needs. Thanks to the experience gained through my degree placement, in addition to the knowledge I had gained through my degree and my previous work experience, I was lucky enough to be offered the position. My colleague and I set about setting up the new scheme in the local area from scratch. For the next 2 years I recruited and worked with a complex caseload of up to 18 young people, who were homeless at the time of referral. I worked to not only house my clients, but also to raise their aspirations, support them in gaining independent living skills, and move towards stability, with the end goal being my clients entering education, training or employment.
I absolutely loved being a Link Worker, it was a challenging yet hugely rewarding role. I know that without this degree qualification I wouldn’t have been in a position to be offered the role. In addition to the formal qualification of my degree, the variety involved in it allowed me to develop a broad range of transferable skills that not only made me a more attractive candidate in applying, but also enabled me to do my very best for my clients within the role.
After 2 years I decided to make the move back into field of formal education, and started applying for Pastoral and Inclusion roles in schools. I had a very high success rate in these applications, and I believe that my degree qualification and the doors it has opened were largely to thank for that. I now work in a local secondary school as an Inclusion Manager – my dream job. I now get to work with the most challenging students, which was what I always wanted to do! I work to support the school in reducing the exclusion rates, and support the students in meeting the school’s expectations in terms of behaviour and attainment.
My years at university were really special. I feel like both the course and the department enabled me to make the most of my time at university. Studying for my degree really taught me to believe in myself and my own abilities, and the whole experience taught me to seize opportunities as they come. Studying this course has changed the course of my life for the better, and I can’t recommend it to others highly enough.
I was attracted to the Education, Culture and Childhood studies degree because of the broad nature of the course; I was able to tailor the degree to my own interests and strengths. This allowed me to take my studies down a more social, philosophical route, whilst my peers could opt for psychological, historical or other routes. Having this kind of freedom and choice immediately made the course more appealing. Whatever my expectations were, Sheffield exceeded them; I was overwhelmed by the personal nature of the School of Education, first noted when the course director had learnt everybody’s names on our introductory tutorial on the first day of first year. This immediately set the tone for the 3 years I was to spend studying. It wasn’t just the interesting modules and passionate teaching that made my studies so great: I will be forever grateful for the pastoral care that was given to me on the course during certain times of personal need.
The opportunity to undertake a practical working placement during the second year was so rewarding: it really allowed me to think beyond my studies and experience things I would never have experienced without the support of the department. Another highlight was being able to really get my teeth into something that interested me during my dissertation. Again, I was supported by a dedicated dissertation supervisor whom I will never be able to thank enough for her guidance and words of wisdom throughout the process.
The knowledge I have gained from the School of Education has already supported me in my future career: having just finished my primary PGCE, I could not have tackled the masters credits without my knowledge base and work ethic that Sheffield has instilled in me. My undergraduate degree has also supported me in practical situations in the classroom. I am now a newly qualified teacher and will be embarking on my teaching journey this September as I become a Year 1 Class Teacher in London.