Students have been enjoying the first seminar session of the new Early Childhood Graduate Practitioner Competency course.

The University of Sunderland was last year selected as part of a national pilot to develop highly skilled graduates which will help improve the lives of young children and their families.

Sunderland is one of only eight universities in the country – and first in the North East – to introduce a new level of recognition for students on our Childhood Studies programme.

The Early Childhood Studies Graduate Practitioner Competencies aim to shape the identity of the early childhood workforce and strengthen the professional practice aspect of the degree.

The competencies have been developed by members of the national Early Childhood Studies Degree Network in conjunction with students and employers, and will be endorsed by the Department for Education.

Gayle Blackburn, Senior Lecturer in Childhood Studies, said “I am delighted to be supporting all of our Early Childhood Graduate Practitioner students. They are all so excited to embark on this part of their programme. I am looking forward to seeing them all develop through our dedicated sessions and also observing them in the various settings where they will be placed.

“It is such a fantastic opportunity for them to develop their professional skills whilst also making links between their theoretical knowledge and practice”

Currently there are different routes into the early childhood careers, with some programmes having an academic focus only, while others offer placement opportunities or are employment based.

Under the new programme at Sunderland, students have to meet nine competencies through assessed placement tasks, observations of practice and academic assignments. They include: advocating for young children’s rights and participation, promoting holistic child development, working directly with young children, families and colleagues to promote health, well-being, safety and nurturing care, observing, listening and planning for young children to support their well-being, early learning, progression and transitions, safeguarding and child protection.

The 17 students were delighted with the first session and positive feedback included:

  • “It allows us to experience working with different ages” – Michelle Sharp
  • “Having it on my CV will look epic!” – Angela Chaters
  • “It shows you are willing to go above and beyond” – Melanie Lloyd
  • “It will help me to get the most out of my degree programme” – Gemma Ord
  • “It will give me good opportunities” – Skye Robertson
  • “It gives us more chance to see the application of theory” – Aradia Palmer

Lindey Cookson, Principal Lecturer and Team Leader Childhood Studies, added:This new development reflects the enthusiasm and commitment of our Childhood Studies team to remain at the forefront of the changing agenda for childhood and early years degrees.  We have also engaged with early years’ employers in the local area including Sunderland, Durham, Newcastle and Northumberland to ensure that our students are well equipped for graduate opportunities working with children and families, and for progression to post graduate study in this area.”

The competencies will also be included as part of the University’s Education and Curriculum Studies top-up degree.