Early Years BA Hons: Dennise Dolphin's journey to higher education

My name is Dee Dolphin, I am 51 years old and I am studying for a BA (Hons) Early Years Education at University Centre South Essex from 2019 until 2022 and this is my story. 

Before studying at the University Centre South Essex, I had worked in the Early Years sector for 30 years, initially as a parent volunteer to eventually training to become a family learning tutor with the Basildon Adult College. I taught story sack workshops, the flying start course and worked with the travelling community and harder to reach families. Most recently I was an Early Years Instructor in a small primary school and have two adult children of my own who have both gone to university.  

There were a few contributing factors that made me study at University Centre South Essex. My daughter successfully studied for her Early Years Degree at the university with the same tutors that are now teaching me. Although I had some subject knowledge from the working sector, I lacked the formal qualification needed to train to teach. Another reason I chose the university was to build confidence but also knowing that the same tutors were still there when my daughter studied with them and how the class sizes were smaller for more personal contact tutor time.

The best thing about higher education is gaining confidence and self-belief. I was worried that being a mature student would be seen as a weakness by future employers and my class peers but that is not case at all. I never expected to learn about myself, gain confidence as well as become a welcome member of a great class. 

I have learned to value the skills I had already and increase my confidence and it’s amazing what everyone brings to the degree course while learning from each other. We have gained skills through creating portfolios, documents, presentations, and online lessons which have already prepared me for the future workforce and online learning. Our tutors have provided us with extra courses that we’ve been able to add to our skillset, for example The Poetry Basket Course, Forest School Skills and the Paediatric First Aid certificate.  We’ve benefited from having leading guest speakers, most recently, Elaine Bennett.   

Throughout lockdown, the tutors have supported us to be determined and believe in ourselves. I think this year has been very hard socially for the students, but student services have organised virtual events and motivated us even when it’s been tough. The well-being team are always available and there’s a good peer mentor programme.  
If you want a small community, where you make great friends and your tutors know you as an individual, this is the right place. It’s an easy commute, either by train or car and the library is in the same building.  

Looking ahead, I want to gain QTS and remain working within the Early Years sector with the aspiration of working with harder to reach families in the future.

To learn more about the Early Years programme, visit: Early Years Education BA (Hons) | South Essex College