Donna Harris – BEd (Hons) Primary (Early Childhood Studies) graduate

Current employer: Wiltshire Council

Current job title: SEND Lead Worker

Current location: Salisbury

“I had a teaching placement each year throughout the duration of my course and, whilst I had to stay local as a mature student with young children, I still managed to work in a nursery, primary school, and school with a specialist provision within it.”

Tell us about your career path since graduation.

After graduation I ran a pre-school in a small village hall in Wiltshire for a year before joining an early years setting as their Curriculum Lead and Deputy Manager, specialising in supporting young children with disabilities and difficulties. I spent five years in this role and I am now a SEND lead worker for Wiltshire Council, supporting children with SEN in the South of the county. I support children and their families going through the Statutory Assessment processes (EHCP’s) and can use my experience to help them through this.

Has your career path changed since graduation?

A little; although I am still in education, I have moved into a role which enables me to support children with SEN. This has always been a true passion of mine, rather than teaching children directly.

What is the most difficult thing which you have faced in your career?

I think initially it was persuading the pre-school that I could do the job. It was tricky with the high level of education I had had, considering the low rate of pay initially within early years roles. I also went with very little practical experience within a leadership role, but it was the wide range of placements that were offered to me whilst studying for my degree that persuaded them that I could do it. I think at the moment, though I’ve had to adapt to a new role and put into practice what I have learnt, I’ve learnt to support families in a slightly different way to what I am used to.

What is the best, most exciting or fun thing that you have done in your career?

Starting my new role here at Wiltshire Council has been varied, exciting, and fun. I have always loved a challenge and my current role has enabled me to use a huge range of skills, both from my time at university and from my previous jobs supporting children, young people, and their families to access the appropriate level of support to help them thrive and do well – no matter what challenges they face themselves.

What, if anything, would you do differently if you could?

I don’t think I would do anything differently. I had a fantastic time at Plymouth and it gave me the broad base of skills I have needed to be where I am today.

What advice would you give to anyone wanting to get in to the same line of work?

Get experience: if it means volunteering or taking low pay initially, just go for it. You have to build up sometimes to get that experience.

How did studying at Plymouth help you?

Whilst studying at Plymouth I had access to a great support network and I was also able to visit different settings and access a wide variety of modules to cover most aspects of education based work. The staff were always on hand and keen to support us through the course and were enthusiastic about the difference we could make as students out in the world.

Did you undertake a placement during your degree and if so, how did this benefit you?

Yes, I had a teaching placement each year throughout the duration of my course and, whilst I had to stay local as a mature student with young children, I still managed to work in a nursery, primary school, and school with a specialist provision within it.

Would you recommend undertaking a course with Plymouth University, and why?

Definitely – and I have done. It’s a great university, there’s great support and fabulous caring staff: I can’t praise it enough.

Inspired by this story?

For more information about our range of courses within the Plymouth Institute of Education, please visit the school page.

Want to find similar alumni?

If you would like to find out what other alumni from the Plymouth Institute of Education are currently doing, please visit the education and teaching interest area.