Jackie Durkan – Making a Difference in the Early Years Sector with an MA in Early Childhood Studies

Alumni of MA in Early Childhood Studies

Early Years & Montessori

Jackie Durkan is as experienced as they come in the early years sector. She and her sister have been running Stepping Stones Creche and Montessori in southwest Dublin for the last 20 years.

For many of those years, they were working year-round with full days of 7 am to 6.30 pm. However, with the onset of the Covid 19 pandemic, they decided to roll back the service slightly, moving to a 38-week per year service, reducing the working day to 8.30 am to 1.30 pm. Part of this decision is thanks to Jackie’s longer-term ambition for her career in early years.

She has her eyes set on entering a governing body of the sector such as Tusla or An Cosán, trying to effect change that can improve working conditions for those working in early years settings. This is where Portobello Institute comes in.

“I wanted to have the MA. I was doing a bit of psychology teaching online for another college last year. With the MA, I was planning on going into Tusla or An Cosán or one of the training colleges.

“Most people with an MA or a degree, at this stage, aren’t staying in creches. It’s very sad because there are loads of girls getting educated and they’re all either going into primary teaching or they’re all going into SNA and becoming civil servants,” she said.

Jackie is very vocal about the tough circumstances that early years practitioners in today’s climate and she is hoping that she can play a role in improving life for them.

“If I was going into Tusla, I’d maybe look into the way things are run in early childhood settings and try to change them for the better.

“There is an awful lot required for very little pay. I’d be looking to go in and see what changes can be made.

“It’s very sad because the girls are very good and they’re not going to stay. We can get part-time staff with no problem. You get mothers with kids. But it’s hard to get young girls to stay,” she said.

Jackie came to Portobello in order to add more academic knowledge to her existing level eight degree and extensive experience in working. She undertook our MA in Early Childhood Studies, graduating in May of 2022. She says she really enjoyed the educational experience at Portobello, particularly the role our tutors played in her learning.

“I really enjoyed it. I thought Marguerita was brilliant. She was a fantastic tutor. You only send her a text or an email and she’s back to you straight away. She must live beside the computer. She was really good, really helpful. She’s top of her game. She knows the stuff inside out. She’s a great tutor and a lovely lady. Really easy to communicate with.

“We also had Yvonne, who was really good as well. Gave great feedback and broke down the assignments bit by bit and told us exactly what she needed to see. They were both really helpful,” she said.

At Portobello, we strive to make our courses work for our students and their schedules, something that Jackie says was of real benefit to her.

“There was one other course I was considering. Portobello didn’t require any Saturdays, which a lot of them do. Some of them required block weeks of going into college.

“Portobello very much suits the working mother. It suited my schedule. The timelines were great. You could get extensions. Thank God, we didn’t need them. The essays were spread out. Everything was online which was great for me. I would be able to do my work in the evening. That was great,” she said.

Jackie has already passed the details of the course on to her colleagues so that they too can unlock their full career potential.

If you’d like to hear more about the MA in Early Childhood Studies or any of our other early years qualifications, you can do so by visiting the department page here.

If you are interested in any of our Early Childhood Studies degrees or courses you can book a consultation call with our expert early years advisor Jennifer Matteazzi here, email jennifer.matteazzi@portobelloinstitute.com or call 01 892 0031.

Jackie Durkan – Making a Difference in the Early Years Sector with an MA in Early Childhood Studies Jackie Durkan – Making a Difference in the Early Years Sector with an MA in Early Childhood Studies