Hazel O’Connor – Early Years Setting Owner Achieves First Class Honours

Early Years

For early years setting owner and Portobello Institute graduate, Hazel O’Conner, training around Traveller inclusion in early years education just wasn’t consistent enough across the board.

She embarked on her own research project as part of her Level 8 BA (Hons) degree in Early Childhood Studies to see what kind of inclusion training was out there and how it was impacting the work of practitioners.

“I interviewed some people who had done a lot of training around inclusion, some people who had done very little, and some people who felt they didn’t need any training.  

“There was a varied attitude and amount of training out there, it depended on what the service you went into. I have a huge interest in that area so I wanted to really see what came back with the different types of training and how it affected people’s practice.  

“A lot of times we talk about what we can do for the children and the families, but I wanted to see how the training affected practitioner’s work, did they get more job satisfaction when they had more training, did they feel like they were making more of a difference when they had more training and what they thought about the training themselves?” Hazel explains.  

After completing her Level 7 Early Childhood Studies (Ord) degree with Portobello, Hazel was in the position to continue her studies to a Level 8 (Hons) degree by pursuing this research project through blended learning over one year. 

She recently completed her Level 8 degree with first-class honours.  

“I’m working in childcare for 25 years, so I knew exactly who to do my interviews with and I ran my questions through Denise (Flood, tutor) beforehand I was happy enough.  

“The process of the project was very good because we had a webinar on each section, so I felt like we were getting through it really well in terms of how it was divided up over the year.  

“I felt like the year was a good amount of time to do it and I didn’t feel under massive amounts of pressure, so the structure was good. 

“You were appointed a tutor based on the area that you decided to do the project on. 

“Denise was really good, especially near the end she kept sending it back to me and I think that’s the only reason that I got the first-class honours she kept sending it back to me and said I would be glad when I got the results.

“Having that contact there with her was good and she was great at emailing back and gave really good feedback, it was constructive and well-explained. I was redoing little sections and she was getting back to me so quickly and I felt like she genuinely cared about the feedback she was giving and what I was doing.  

“She had written if there were good bits, she mentioned that and said, ‘that’s good’, ‘that’s well written’, ‘that’s interesting’. There was praise and when you are that into it and you are doing it all online you need some positive feedback you need to know what you are doing well and what you need to work on more. 

“It was brilliant, the project I picked was something I was really interested in, I’m delighted because I put a lot into it,” she said.  

As an early years setting owner, Hazel said it is great to see employees who also have a Level 8 degree or have the interest in doing it as it makes them stand out.  

I know someone who is doing her Level 7 at the moment and she’s considering the Level 8 but she’s not sure because you can get the higher cap without doing the Level 8 but it’s the whole process of the research project is very good for yourself in terms of thinking about what area you are interested in, going out then and meeting people, interviewing them, gathering information it’s good as a learning exercise in itself going and doing the research.  

“For anyone who wants to be a manager or wants to move up in their area it’s very good to have that, it gives you confidence. It’s nice to finish it out and get the Honours degree at the end but it’s just good for you to take yourself out of that comfort zone and do that research off your own back.  

“As an early years setting owner when hiring people, I think okay if people do the Level 7 they can look for jobs they’re able to get the higher cap but to finish it out and do the Level 8 I think makes them stand out, to go back and to show that you are interested because you always want to meet people who are interested and they’re not just doing what they have to do,” she said. 

Follow in Hazel’s footsteps with our upcoming Level 7 BA (Ord) Early Childhood Studies degree or Level 8 BA (Hons) Early Childhood Studies degree.  

Hazel O’Connor – Early Years Setting Owner Achieves First Class Honours Hazel O’Connor – Early Years Setting Owner Achieves First Class Honours