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Diane Gregory - Student Profile

HLS_Case Sudy _Professional -Practice -Awards _Diane -GregoryWhere are you from?

Newcastle Upon Tyne

Why did you choose Northumbria University, Newcastle?

Opportunity for flexible higher education access near to work and home, allowing me to combine a work based study route to a degree in early years practice.

What do you think of Newcastle and our region and what are your favourite things to do?

Newcastle and the north east is where my family roots are. The area has greatly developed in the inner city and quayside over the last 20 years offering a multitude of shops, entertainment and cultural events. The whole of the Northumbrian coast is of very close proximity offering some valuable landscapes and historical sites of both beauty and education. Most importantly (and I’m biased) but the people of the north east are welcoming, friendly and supportive, I don’t find the same warmth in any other region of the UK. For people wanting to study at Northumbria University who are not from the north east, I can assure you, you will be made to feel very welcome allowing you to feel confident and settled whilst you study and explore. My favourite past time is walking, there are many local and not too distant sites to enjoy, this activity supports your health and well-being which then impacts greatly on my ability to work and study - a favourite place to walk is Bamburgh or even closer, Bolam lakes.

What has surprised you most about living in Newcastle and this region? What has impressed you most?

I have lived in Newcastle for 50 years, my working and study life for best part of 30 years. Most impressive for me is how our region has developed economically, promoting higher expectations for the people who live and work here which in turn impacts on better prospects and opportunities.  For example, I am aware that Northumbria University itself has expanded and developed its opportunities for higher education courses for people; developing from a polytechnic to a university. Although I do not claim to fully understand this process, it is visible that this in itself brings valuable educational and economic development to Newcastle and its people.

Did you find Northumbria University welcoming? Was it easy to fit in?

My long career has been in Early Years Education and what I greatly appreciate about Northumbria University is that as a mature student I have felt very welcomed and valued.  I held reservations about entering a university at this stage in my life; personal misgivings that university life was for younger people embarking on their career path. However, I have been pleasantly surprised at how many mature students are enrolled at Northumbria on various work related courses. Northumbria university appear to manage this well and I find a positive mix of people which promotes an element of value to lifelong learning. Personal awareness of this has given me the confidence to participate and contribute to study in respect of my age and experience.

What have you enjoyed most about coming to Northumbria University?

I have a huge amount of admiration for the teaching / lecture staff who lead my course of study. They present deep value and understanding for their students and exuberate respect for the knowledge we currently have and how this can be utilised and developed. They support incredibly well in order to guide us towards being the best we can be in our professional areas of work. Their beliefs in continuous professional development and consistency in the value further education brings to the individual, then consequently to the work place and wider context is a clear objective.  In turn this has positively influenced my whole experience as an individual, impacting on my whole enjoyment in studying and the value it is bringing to my personal and work based skills and knowledge.

Who has helped you most since you came to Northumbria?

My main tutor Kay Heslop has been instrumental in supporting and encouraging belief in myself and the value of further education in my area of expertise. On the whole Kay has heightened my awareness to the value a course of higher education and studying can bring to one’s own personal development and confidence, irrespective of the requirements and politics surrounding the profession of Early Years staff. I can’t thank Kay enough for her patience and guidance towards inspiring me to embark on this route following many discussions at open education events. 

Who has inspired you most at Northumbria University?

Again my tutor Kay Heslop has been so influential and effective in her role as senior lecturer on the professional practice award in early years practice. Kay enthuses study and research and is so informative about pertinent reading material, theorists, research, projects events etc. Kay performs with high expectations of herself and the knowledge she requires in order to support and develop the knowledge of others; it empowers everyone in her lecture to go forth and enquire. I am personally inspired by how much she delivers and guides towards appropriate material, which in turn proves to be as inspiring as Kay  and so appropriate to the line of enquiry being studied that I am inspired by her expertise and knowledge of what is available and appropriate to all the different topics each of her students are interested in. 

What is your favourite place on campus?

As a work based student (part time course) I don’t get to spend too much time on campus, however I have my favourite place of study which helps me to focus on my studying and writing. This is first floor of the library at a particular section on the right-hand side. It offers a window and more light and trees than any other part of the library. I have tried all three areas of the library to study in, however this particular site supports my own personal requirements to how I best study and learn. On the first floor I find the atmosphere just right, a light surrounding chatter keeps me alert, quick and easy access to many books, the acknowledgement of light snacks and drinks being allowed helps me continue to stay focussed and supports my stay as well as the option of a computer or a study table, appropriate chairs at either and good lighting.

Have you joined any sports teams, clubs or been involved in any volunteer projects? Tells us about the highlights?

Although I receive as much information about what is available and what events are accessible as full time students, working full-time and managing family commitments has taken priority in this area.  I am committed to other voluntary projects alongside university, work and family, i.e. parent / teacher association events to raise funds for extra-curricular activities for primary school children, church activities again which support young children’s education. Involvement with St Gabriel’s Church in Heaton, Newcastle, provided opportunity to be involved with a community project called ‘Heaton Festival’.  This was an amazing celebration of community life in Heaton and a focus on supporting the local area, bringing people together to visually see the positive voluntary developments supporting the area such as ‘Friends of Heaton Park’ (a voluntary group who support the environmental issues of the park).  There were links made from this to my university module documentation within a work-based project on forest school education and I now utilise the park with the early years children in my salaried work. I implemented a forest school curriculum via use of weekly sessions in the woodland area of the park with children 3 - 5 years. These sessions support the children in outdoor learning; flora and fauna, environmental issues -refuse, recycling and care of the environment, which also supports the work of ‘Friends of Heaton Park’ which links to my initial engagement via the voluntary festival.

What is the best thing about your course?

The course has broadened my horizons; bringing inspiring information and knowledge about the extensive developments in early years practice both nationally and internationally. This has inspired my being in areas of personal perspectives as well as establishing benefits for the workplace, most importantly, improving children’s lives for future learning and lifelong skills. The course has provided opportunity to meet other inspiring professionals in my field of work which i would never have had the opportunity to do otherwise. The chance to meet and have dialogue with other like-minded people from Norway (Oslo university college) at a recent study visit was inspiring and has rekindled my passion and outlook within my career and personal goals.

What are the most valuable lessons you have learnt to date?

Learning and further research in a chosen area of interest inspires your whole being and highlights a purpose to the possibilities throughout life - irrespective of age or status.  Higher education offers inspiring personal gain, particularly in areas of self-motivation, regulation and satisfaction. It offers a restored belief in my ability and the possibilities available.

What do you want to do in the future? What skills have you learned/improved that you think will be of most use in your future career?

The valuable skills I have learned are of a deeper confidence from improved pertinent knowledge which offers an outlook of many possibilities. Improving my research skills and ascertaining the positive benefits of pursuing further research and reading has promoted my understanding of ‘how to make a difference’ and have positive influence on yourself and those around you at both local and national level.
A main aim and objective for my personal growth is to promote the valuable and intelligent qualities of practitioners who work with early years children birth to five years. To prove that the qualities of adults who choose to work with this age range are particular and specialised in how to communicate and educate early years children from birth and in doing so strengthen the notion that education begins at birth and is the most important factor in human life. A future target is to be influential in my field of work at a higher level in order to have an impact on the powers that be.

Have you worked on any projects with businesses or been on a placement? What were your most memorable experiences?

My course of study is combined with work based learning; a professional practice award which promotes experiential learning and therefore develops skills and intelligence of those already in the work place. I have been able to link all the studying I do with work practices under ethical conditions.
My most memorable experience was the opportunity to share the newly implemented and positive practice of forest school learning for Early Years children with a lecturer from a Norwegian university. Such a valuable learning experience, given that the Scandinavian countries are world leading experts in outdoor learning for Early Years children. Instrumental dialogue was shared and very positive feedback given to me re the work and research I was doing, this impacted on my personal growth and performance on the success in implementing the project. Following on from this a further opportunity arose via links with Northumbria University’s lead staff of the professional practice award, in connection with higher education work based studies in early years being implemented in Norway. On this occasion I chose to be involved in discussions with both the students and lecturers from Norway when they came for an educational visit. They also visited me, my staff team and our group of children at our venue in the woods to share in the positive practices of working outdoors with children. The value of this exchange was inspiring; it allowed both parties the opportunity to gain valuable knowledge and extended my professional ability in sharing educational content with international Early Years professions.

Have you taken up any opportunities to travel with your current course/undertake field trips? If so, please tell us about them.

To date I have not travelled but have taken the opportunity to engage with international students and lecturers from Norway. I am currently pursuing the possibility of further communication via interactive activity with an Early Yyears setting in Norway, encouraging dialogue in sharing the woodland experiences between the children at my setting and theirs. This will offer further educational opportunities for both the children and staff, influencing future learning for all involved and of course this wouldn’t have been made possible without the direct pathways via Northumbria University.

If you could offer some advice to students thinking of coming to study here what would you say?

In my opinion Northumbria University is a diverse and vibrant higher educational hub. If my experience is to be counted for, I would say the philosophy of the tutors on my course is a direct purpose for the whole university, ensuring a very positive learning experience in higher education. I strive to believe that life is also what you make it, but through my study at Northumbria, windows in my mind have been opened and choices are made available to you. My experience has been so instrumental to my whole being both personal and in the work place, that my statement is, ‘anyone, of any age / stage of career development or personal development, will find enthusiasm and delivery at Northumbria’. In relation to the particular route I embarked upon - which is part time and work related I would encourage the pathway whole heartedly. Initially, I had my doubts about managing the system and whether it would actually support my career at this stage of my life (being a mature student) however; it has been proven to have highlighted my professional being as well as offered many personal and confidence building streams. Highly recommended.

How do you feel you have changed as a person since being at Northumbria University, Newcastle (e.g. confidence)?

I have been extremely surprised by the personal development in confidence and self-esteem I have gained. I thought within my job role I had confidence and processed this within my work; however in reality this was very self-contained. Building on my knowledge and researching areas of interest within the field has given me the confidence to have a voice that is willing to share not only within the context of the workplace but also with ability within the wider service area. I feel more prepared to discuss Early Years education with other professionals and to know how to gather more information via a range of educational routes in order to be more diverse and creative in my thinking.

If you had 3 words to sum up your time with us what would they be?

Inspiring, provocative and enlightening.

Would you recommend Northumbria University to a friend?

Beyond doubt, in my opinion I think I could now positively influence people in my position who have had long standing careers. The mix of experiential learning with higher education is a very progressive reward for your own development and positive impact in the work environment. I particularly endorse the professional practice, work based learning route to a BA (hons) degree.

For more information about Diane, visit:

LinkedIn - Diane Gregory - Deputy Nursery Manager

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