When studying Early Childhood at ARU, you have the option every year to take a placement module. You do not have to take this pathway and there are theoretical aspects of the same module. But for those who want to go on placement, here are my tips for making the most of it!
Every year you are studying at ARU, for one semester (12 weeks) you can take up a placement.
You are required to attend your setting for 12 days. This is the minimum requirement. Some people stay longer, some people just do the 12 days (so one day for 12 weeks). Sometimes, because of the nature of this industry, half-terms get in the way and interrupt your placement. The way some people get around this is to do two days on some weeks to make up the lost days in the half term. Alternatively, some settings run holiday clubs throughout the half terms so you have the option of continuing with your placement.
First, you need to decide the age group you wish to be working with. I am in my second year so I have completed two placement-based modules. In my first year I was at a nursery, so focused on the age range 0-5. This year, I changed to a school setting so the age range went up to 5-7. I also tried a special needs setting this year so my experience was varied.
What if I am working?
Some people worry about losing a day’s work when they complete their placement. There is a way around this – you can do your placement at your setting (if you work in an early years setting – you cannot do your placement at Topshop!)
If you have an employer who is flexible and understanding then normally you can work it so that you can complete your placement tasks within your normal working hours, therefore you are earning whilst you learn. Bonus! I did this in my first year.
Do I need to sort it out or will the university?
Ultimately, ARU likes you to find your own placement setting. This is because it means that you are likely to find somewhere that you are happy with, it will be an acceptable distance from where you live and by approaching these settings yourself, you are learning great communication skills and building up that relationship with the employer. You never know, they may even offer you a job at the end of it all.
How do I approach a setting?
Early years settings are not always the most accessible in person because they will have security and restrictions in place for the children in their care. So I would say, rather than just turning up at your preferred place and asking to see the manager, call them first. If you don’t feel comfortable on the phone speaking to people, then send them an email. Make an arrangement to look around so you can get a feel for the place and see if it is somewhere you would like to do your placement. Be honest with them, explain you are a student and you are looking for a placement setting – if they aren’t a setting that takes students, they will tell you and you haven’t wasted your time going round there.
I hope these tips have helped but what I would say, most of all is enjoy it and try to mix up your settings each year. This will be the only time in your career where you get a chance to see lots of different settings in action whilst not being committed to a job position. So explore, enjoy and try something new. You never know, you might just like it!