Studying for your childcare qualification can be difficult, especially when you have to fit it around full time employment. Luckily, vocational qualifications mean a lot of the work is practical and fits neatly into your job.
Taking feedback from our learners and assessors, we’ve compiled some tips to help you manage your qualification.
At the beginning of your course, it might seem like you have a huge mountain to climb. That might be true if the course was a week long, but you have months. Start by breaking down everything into weekly tasks. Then, work out how long you will need to spend each week to tackle them all. If you aren’t sure at first, ask your assessor who will have plenty of experience helping learners to manage their time. Breaking the course down in this way will make it seem manageable.
It’s important to keep yourself on track with regular reviews. Keep a list of what you have to do and sit down once a week to review it. Add to the list and cross off the things you have done. If it helps to motivate you, you can commit to emailing the list to your assessor every week.
2. A few minutes here, a few minutes there…it soon adds up
Saving up all your studying for Saturday, might mean you don’t have to worry about it during the week, but who wants a weekend of work looming over them? Especially when your friends and family have other plans. Here are some ideas for breaking it up:
30 minutes during your lunch break
It’s nice to have a break at lunch but how about using some of it to study? Not only is half an hour an ideal length of time for your concentration levels but, if you do it every weekday, that’s two and a half hours of productive time under your belt.
30 minutes before your evening starts
Slot in 30 minutes while the dinner is cooking and, along with the 30 minutes you did at lunch, you’ve totalled up five hours before you even reach the weekend.
On the commute
Do you take the train or bus to work? If so, it’s an ideal time to study. Put your headphones on with some soft music to drown out the hustle and study away.
3. Find your learning method
Different people prefer to learn in different ways. Try the following methods to see what works for you:
Practical – taking a vocational qualification, you’ll get plenty of chance to practice what you learn. Talk to your assessor and your manager about how you can do this.
Reading – for some, just reading information is enough to understand and remember it.
Writing – reading material and writing notes works for a lot of people. This works best if you read and summarise using your own words because it will show you have understood the information. For the best results, finish writing and re-read your notes before you stop for the day.
Visuals – some people use diagrams and drawings to help them. Don’t be afraid to use colours and images to help you remember. Mind maps are a great way to draw and write as you learn. If you’ve not used them before, a quick Google search will bring up lots of examples. These kinds of things are great for sticking on the walls around the house so you can frequently remind yourself of them.
Listening – record yourself talking about subjects or reading about them. Then you can listen back to the notes wherever you are.
4. Leave me alone!
There’ll be a host of distractions wherever you choose to study. Most of these will come from friends and family wanting to talk. These can come in the form of visits, calls or social media, like Facebook or Twitter.
Put your phone in another room, use your laptop only for studying and tell your housemates not to disturb you (that goes for pestering pets too!).
Instead, schedule breaks when you can catch up on Facebook and respond to emails.
5. Take a break
Breaks are as important as the study time. Try to concentrate for too long and you’ll struggle to absorb the information.
Plan to have a ten minute break every hour and make sure you do something completely different during that time.
6. Don’t worry if it doesn’t all go in first time
It’s not unusual to not fully understand something first time. Some concepts are harder to grasp than others.
Start by learning the general principles before concentrating on the details. Sometimes it can just be that the materials you are using are not clear. Remember that your assessor is there to help you with anything you are really struggling with. If you have a friend or a colleague that is taking the same course, ask if they can help.
Another place you could look is online. There may be articles people have written or forum discussions – chances are, if you are struggling, others will be too. Just remember that the internet is not edited, so make sure that what you are reading is from a reputable source.
7. Don’t be alone
Remember being put into groups at school? Or asking your classmates what they ‘put for question four on the maths homework’?
Talking through your work can really help to make it clearer. Find a colleague who is taking, or has taken, the same course. Otherwise there are online communities. Lots of learners follow the Parenta Facebook page and use it as a forum for discussion.
Finding some support from your peers can keep you motivated too. Chat about what you’re studying, where you’ve reached and how you are tackling your coursework. You’ll want to keep up with the others and the conversation will keep you interested; just because you’re not attending a school or college, doesn’t mean you can’t have virtual classmates.
8. Your studying haven
Picking the right study place is essential. Make sure you are comfortable and free from distractions. Adequate lighting, a glass of water (dehydration causes concentration levels to drop) and some peace and quiet can go a long way towards successful studying. Snacking is fine as you study, but remember that sugary foods and drinks will make your concentration levels fluctuate. Keep to healthy foods like nuts or yogurt for a productive session and a good night’s sleep afterwards.
For more information on creating your learning oasis, see our guide ‘Build your study haven’.
9. And finally…
…enjoy the course! Childcare qualifications are there to help you make your time at work as happy, safe and productive as possible for you and the children. The courses aren’t there to catch you out. It’s about reaffirming what you know and teaching you some new things along the way.
As part of Parenta’s commitment to quality, we regularly call childcare workers after they achieve their Children and Young People’s Workforce qualification to ensure they are happy with the service they received.
In our most recent survey, we were delighted to achieve 100% satisfaction rating with some extremely positive comments.
Colleen B. Level 3: “My assessor was brilliant! I have developed new skills – particularly around safeguarding and Health & Safety.”
Georgina P. Childminder: ” The learning was fantastic, really well delivered. I have learnt lots of new skills throughout the whole course and no improvements could be made to the service at all! The tutor support was fantastic and support was second to none, I would definitely recommend to other people!”
Michelle K. Childminder: “My tutor was brilliant, extremely helpful. I will stay in touch with her after the course.”
Paulete T. Nursery Nurse: “I hadn’t done any learning for 30 years, but I really enjoyed it. My tutor helped with any problems but there wasn’t really any issues at all and I learned lots of new skills.”
The “Growing Up in Ireland” study has found that, despite being responsible for almost a third of all infants in some form of childcare, 55% of childminders have no recognised qualification or training.
Children’s Minister Frances Fitzgerald, who launched the latest report, insisted that more people wanting to work with children were taking further education courses, ensuring improved quality.
“We are seeing improving qualifications in childcare centres,” Ms Fitzgerald said.
“More people now do Fetac (Further Education and Training Awards Council) training and we are going to make it obligatory that you have qualifications if you’re going to work in a childcare centre.” The study revealed that 22% of childminders hold this qualification.
Nearly 6% had a higher education qualification, almost 14% had completed some sort of related course, and 3.5% had been awarded a childcare qualification from outside Ireland.
The remaining 55% had no formal qualification at all.
The report pointed out that while childminders caring for three or fewer children are not required by Irish law to have a formal qualification and are exempt from regulation, promoting training and qualification among them would “advance the quality of care”.
The report also found that 40% of infants were in some form of childcare at nine months, with 42% of those being looked after by relatives, 31% by home-based childminders and 27% being cared for in a childcare centre.
Childminders who look after more than three children at once are required by law to notify the Health Service Executive.
“The importance of paid childminders for the care of infants in Ireland is not well recognised, as much literature on childcare focuses on centre-based care, and some debates on childcare do not recognise the significance of the role of childminders,” said the report, written by Dr Frances McGinnity, senior researcher at the Economic and Social Research Institute.
“Given the importance of quality of care for child development noted in the international literature, this raises the issue of childcare qualifications for childminders.”
Meanwhile, the vast majority of relatives who parents rely upon to look after their children had no formal childcare qualification.
The government’s publication ‘More great childcare’ (January 2013) set out the vision for quality in early education and childcare. The goal was to make sure there is more great childcare available for parents and children. The introduction of early years educators (level 3) will ensure those who work with babies and young children are increasingly skilled and professional, and early years teachers will be expected to be educated to the same level as a primary school teacher.
Charlie Taylor, chief executive of the National College of Teaching and Leadership (NCTL), said: “There is nothing more important in early education and childcare than the quality of the staff who are delivering it. The workforce supporting our babies, young children and their parents should be well qualified, well respected and well led.”
From September this year, early years teacher trainees must have at least a GCSE grade C in English, Maths and Science, or their equivalent. From September 2014 they will have to pass the same skills test as classroom teacher trainees. (Download the teacher standards here)
Following an 8 week public consultation undertaken by the NCTL, which ended on 22 April 2013, the early years educator criteria were published last week, to some criticism from the industry. Early Years Educators will be expected to hold GCSE Maths and English to start the course, which is equivalent to an A-level. (Download the qualification criteria here)
Education minister Elizabeth Truss said: “Good quality early years education, which is teacher-led, has been shown to be beneficial for children, especially those from low-income backgrounds. It makes a difference to young children’s lives and enables them to learn and grow.”
The Pre-school Learning Alliance has, however, expressed disappointment that there is no explicit commitment to learning through play in either qualifications, or reference to working with children with special educational needs.
Chief executive Neil Leitch said: “We are dismayed that the government has chosen to ignore the advice of qualified and experienced early years and childcare practitioners and make no explicit reference to learning through play in both of these qualifications.
“In our consultation responses to the government we stressed the importance of referring to learning through play in these qualifications as this is the cornerstone of high-quality early years provision in this country. That the government has chosen to ignore such a key foundation of early years practice is a grave concern.”
He also disagreed with the government’s claim that the creation of the early years teacher and educator qualifications would improve the status of the sector, noting that although early years teachers will have to undergo the same skill tests as classroom teachers they will not be granted “qualified teacher status”.
Parenta Training, were described as ”excellent” in delivery of qualifications and quality assurance in an EV (External Verification) visit from EDI this week.
As a leading childcare training provider, we have made admirable strides in the past year in successfully helping child care professionals efficiently gain childcare qualifications.
Barbara, the EDI verifier, commented that immense progression had been achieved within our procedures and practice and that Parenta Training continues to demonstrate excellent skills, currently being ahead of the programme within the QCF (Qualifications and Credit Framework).
She left Parenta Training’s centre without giving any actions, and we’re now authorised to make direct claims for CCLD’s meaning our learners receive their completion certificates much quicker.
Debbie Sinclair, a Regional Training Manager at Parenta Training said of the achievement, “I would like to say a huge THANK YOU to the whole team for their continued support. The outcome today is a huge testament to our hard work.”
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