Jess shares her story on how she was supported on the Early Years BA Hons programme

My name is Jess Fleming, I am 26 years old and I studied Early Years Education at University Centre South Essex from October 2018 until May 2021 and this is my story.

I have just finished my Early Years Education Degree and I am moving on start my PGCE in Further Education in September. My overall aim is to gain a 2:2 in Early Years but obviously part of me is hoping for that 2:1.

I have a level 3 diploma in Childcare and Education that I achieved through an apprenticeship in 2013 after dropping out of college due to a poor experience. I worked in Nurseries and also as a Ride Host at Adventure island. In 2015 I gave birth to my little girl who has just turned 6 and I wanted to do something in my career for the long-term and I’ve always wanted to teach. 

It wasn’t so much I chose the University Centre South Essex but that it chose me if that makes any sense? University was not in my plan and was not even a consideration. I spoke to South Essex College about careers advice on what I can do with my current level 3 qualification and they invited me in to speak to the lead of the Early Years programme to see if they had any insight. After speaking with Maria Cruickshank about where I wanted to go in life and her suggesting this course, I felt ready to jump into the deep end and get my degree. 

There are many opportunities that are available for both personal and professional growth. During this course I have been a student rep, a uni-buddy and spoke to students from other courses to share experiences and knowledge. Also, with the CPD courses we have done alongside the degree, I have had a career change while studying and went from ride-host to security guard which is an amazing experience in itself. 

Being in higher education gives you the motivation to work hard to achieve what you set out to do. It helps you time manage, but the best thing is self-confidence. ‘Knowing your stuff’, seeing how much you have grown and developed over the time period and having the confidence to have an opinion and know your worth.
In my first year I was diagnosed as dyslexic and with dyspraxia. It was overwhelming but the university has supported me not only academically but emotionally too. It has not been an easy three years outside of my studies but they were still there to support and guide me in any way possible. You can ask for help and they will find every possible way they are able to support, even if it’s just to listen. 

As a student that is also a parent, the university centre have been great when it has come to child care and would never mind if I had to leave to pick the children up or look after them if they were ill. My daughter adored my lecturers and when we were online would often sit next to me on her tablet and she would wave and it was nice not to feel like a burden. 

Some people may be put off by the University Centre South Essex being a small centre but in fact I believe that it is their biggest asset. By having smaller classes then some larger traditional universities it makes it a much more personal leaning experience. You feel noticed and recognised, where as you may get lost in the large crowds of students elsewhere. They make you feel as though you matter, and you are important which in itself is a reason so many push through the tougher parts of studying in order to have the end results.

The support you get is the best possible and they really get to understand you as a student, how you learn and how they can best support you. Not only that but they also help you in decisions after completing your degree and show you the many options are available and help you understand what they are and where you go. I think if I had studied anywhere else, I would have given up before I finished. 

There are so many things I have achieved, personally and also academically but my best moment was submitting my dissertation. Researching something I had keen interest in, gather the information and then create this document that was my work was an extremely proud moment and never in my life before did I think I would get to this moment. 

Originally, I wanted to teach primary education however within the last year of this course it has changed. Through the opportunities I have been given within the University Centre I have realised that I have a real passion for supporting older students so have decided to change my teacher training to one that is specific to Further Education. I plan to stay within F.E for a couple of years and learn, experience, and take opportunities within that before completing my Masters degree and moving forward to teach Higher Education. You could say I plan to do a full circle which is strange for a girl who four years ago never thought she would go back in education, who was shy and who thought very little of her own self-worth. I am now a woman who is confident, who can fight for what she wants and has a passion for knowledge and students.

For more information on the Early Years programme, visit: Early Years Education BA (Hons) | South Essex College