Claragh McCabe – MA Early Childhood Studies Graduate ‘It’s Never Too Late to Come Back to Study’

Alumni of MA in Early Childhood Studies

Early Years & Montessori

Just one per cent of the early years sector in Ireland holds a level 9 qualification or above. Claragh McCabe chose to become part of that one per cent.

Choosing to study your MA in Early Childhood Studies at Portobello Institute will not only set you apart from the rest and open new career opportunities, but it will also deepen your knowledge so you can follow your passion for early childhood. 

This was the case for Claragh, a Montessori Teacher who works in her family-owned early years setting.

After studying Montessori Teaching at Portobello in 2009 and coming back to complete her degree in Early Childhood Studies in 2019, she was part of Portobello Institute’s first class of MA Early Childhood Studies graduates in 2022. 

Claragh did this for herself. She wanted to fulfil her potential and hold the qualifications that back up her ability to excel at her job and she is proud of her work and achievements. 

“Personally, I wanted to expand my knowledge to give me a greater understanding of the child and their development and implement it into my practice. My intentions were not to change my career as I’m very happy doing what I do – but it has also opened my eyes to future personal prospects that I would have never considered.  

“I don’t want to become a manager, it’s all for my own knowledge and then there are other options to teach level 5 to people along with what I’m doing, that’s what I’d be thinking of now and that would never really have come into my zone only for the whole idea of the master’s opening up opportunities. 

I also did the masters because of Marguerita (Magennis, tutor). I had a good relationship with her since my degree and she told me this is a great opportunity and because I trust her so much as a tutor and someone who knows my capability, I thought you know what let’s give it a go,” she said.

Looking back on her education journey, Claragh credits the tutors at Portobello for their support and nurturing the spark for learning that she found again while studying for her degree.

“The tutors continue to support me with any queries, questions, uncertainties or doubts that I may have and for that I’m grateful. 

“Without the encouragement of the tutors, Marguerita especially because I had her the longest, without all of them I would not be here where I am now. 

“With their constant encouragement when I have had concerns or doubts, and I’ve asked for their help, they are always there to help.  

“I could have easily gone and done a master’s somewhere else but I really value Marguerita’s knowledge, her experience and I thought I’d prefer to do it somewhere where I know I will actually get the support that I need,” she said. 

Claragh successfully earned her master’s, but like many mature students, had a moment where she doubted herself and her own abilities before coming back on board.  

“When I took on the masters, I said I would do it and then when it started, I thought oh my god I can’t do this and said I’m not going to do it! I just felt everybody who was starting it was really qualified and knew what they were doing, and I felt completely out of my comfort zone.  

“I text Marguerita and she had a chat with me, and she completely wound me back in again and reassured me that I would be able to do it.  

“When you begin first as a mature student it can be daunting, but with help and support it can be an enriching experience. Portobello is more than an institute, it’s a community. 

“You’ll always have time with essays and things where you are stuck, or you don’t know how to move forward if you are going in the wrong direction. The tutors have spent hours on the phone going through my essays with me or they ‘say send me a draft and I’ll take a look at it’ and write out pointers for you with lots of comments and feedback all the time,” she said.  

Claragh got ‘the bug for learning’ and the blended learning online delivery of the MA in Early Childhood Studies helped her to study in her own time, learning the kind of course material she was interested in which was helping her to develop practically in her role. 

The accessibility of online for the master’s is brilliant so that means you can study any time and be in any place. The fact that it’s so flexible you can do it at your own pace is so helpful. If I don’t follow the modules exactly for a week I can do two modules in one week it’s really up to my own time management.

“The online master’s course is very easy to navigate, it’s laid out in weekly modules with additional reading by the tutor to support your studies. The online webinars support the learning as you go through it and the interaction among fellow students is beneficial and helpful. 

“The focus of the course material is more child education based, looking at pedagogy and child development, rather than other courses I had initially looked into which focus on legislative elements and what I consider a narrower focus.

“The course widens your knowledge and understanding in terms of how and why children learn and the theoretical underpinnings of early education which is fascinating and enlightening. I witness this in everyday practice but now I have a greater understanding and the knowledge to back it up.

“I got the bug for learning after the degree and I felt after that, I wanted to do something else. I did a weekend course in play therapy and then I thought I’d love to do something else before I get out of the hang of it.  

“It’s never too late to come back to study. Life is about learning experiences and this one has given me a huge sense of achievement,” she said.  

If you are interested in studying any of our Early Years & Montessori courses, visit our department page here. You can book a consultation call with our expert advisor Jennifer Matteazzi here, email jennifer.matteazzi@portobelloinstitute.com or call 01 892 0031.

Claragh McCabe – MA Early Childhood Studies Graduate ‘It’s Never Too Late to Come Back to Study’ Claragh McCabe – MA Early Childhood Studies Graduate ‘It’s Never Too Late to Come Back to Study’