Early Years Taster Session

If you happened to be driving along the M62 during the last week of May you may have noticed wisps of smoke rising from the woods where Bradley Wood Activity Centre is based. If you’d ventured through the trees you would have stumbled across students from Trinity Academy and Leeds West Academy involved in an Early Years Taster Session hosted by Kirsty Sanderson and University Centre Calderdale College. Invited to take part in sessions led by staff from University Centre Calderdale College, University of Huddersfield and Go Wild Outdoors, students were given the opportunity to delve into the different career paths and options that surround teaching early years learners.

With the excellent facilities on offer no time was wasted. After an introduction from Tracy McAspurn of Early Years Improvement at Calderdale Council and Caitlin Mitchel, manager at Grassroots Day Nursery, around the importance of early year providers and the different types of early year opportunities, the students were escorted to a fire pit for the morning session with Chris Calveley from Go Wild Outdoors. He focused on the hands-on and interactive aspect that can come with working with early learners. The students were introduced to the outside world and were challenged with building shelters, learning basic survival skills and even being given the opportunities to learn how to light small fires (given the correct equipment is available.) Not only was this an excellent insight into the type of outdoor activities that are commonly associated with working in this sector, but the session also allowed for team-building, communication, patience and leadership skills to be identified and develop. These types of creative skills are hugely beneficial when continuing into higher education and have been significantly hindered for students that have studied during a global pandemic.

Starting fires and creating shelters out of sticks and sheets can be hungry work, so after a break for lunch students went into their afternoon sessions. Split into two groups, the students were delivered two hour-long sessions. Firstly, an exploration of what it’s like to study to become an early years teacher delivered by Nicola Firth and Katherine Simpson, course leaders at Huddersfield University. Students were given an insight into how a course in a higher education provider would run and what they could expect from their 3+ years of study. The second session, delivered by Joe Lockwood and Julie Jones from University Centre Calderdale College, took a more hands on approach to look at what sort of sessions you can deliver to early learners. Supported by student ambassadors Lucy and Jack, students explored different forms of engaging students through methods such as colour, images, text and various other forms of creativity. Following on from this, the students were given some paint, wooden circles and 30 minutes to get creative and develop images that can be used to let creativity flourish in young people with great success!

Exercises such as this where students not only get guidance on their journey to higher education, but also double up as an opportunity to develop academic and soft skills are exactly where organisations like Go Higher West Yorkshire can add value.  The specialist facilities, contacts and opportunities for collaboration that are available allow these skills to be harnessed and developed, something students often don’t get a chance to do within a school environment. Communication, presenting, time management, problem solving, leadership and teamwork are just some of the soft skills that were touched upon during this event alone. When asked for something they learnt and something they enjoyed the students responses reflect this as well:



‘…how to work with others to build a shelter’

‘…how many different options and careers there are’

‘…that you can stay at university and feel safe, not homesick’

‘…I can do anything if I put my mind to it’

‘…that you have to be inspiring and creative with young children’


‘…seeing the paths I can go down’

‘…all of it because it’s a really nice day, the teachers are all nice and I found out a lot’

‘…the sessions as my artwork was good’

‘…activities I haven’t done before’

When running sessions such as this for students from our targeted backgrounds you always hope that you will have an influence like the ones above, but it’s always nice to have the overwhelmingly positive feedback, highlighting the good work the project continues to do.

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