Laura Crofts

Education Studies, 2015

“The most enjoyable aspect of my year spent with the Education Studies cohort was the freedom that we were given to explore educational issues that we were really passionate about”

Before coming to Oxford Brookes to complete her degree, Laura was studying for her A-levels in Psychology, English Literature and Health and Social Care.

I entered into the Primary Education course in order to fulfil my lifelong dream of becoming a Primary School teacher. Unfortunately, a range of circumstances led me to realise that this was not the correct path for me. However, my desire and commitment to work within the education sector, and make a positive difference to the lives and educational experiences of children and young people, has never diminished. I remained determined and motivated to finish my studies and remain within an area of work and study that I thoroughly enjoy – regardless of the challenges that I faced. The opportunity to transfer onto a degree in Education Studies as a final year direct entry student proved to be a worthwhile experience. This undeniably enabled me to work to my strengths and put all of my primary teaching knowledge and skills to good use.

There were two key benefits for me studying at Brookes. Firstly, Brookes is close to home. It was really important to me when considering university to be able to find a campus that was within travelling distance. Although it was not the most influential factor, the care needs that I have as a result of my disability are such that I was more comfortable living at home and commuting to university. Another reason why I decided to study at Brookes was the excellent quality of the disability service. They supported me from my application to university being successful, right up until the date of my graduation. I cannot fault them.

The Primary Education course provided all students with a vast range of school experiences. I loved being out in school – each placement was memorable in its own way and focused on a specific set of skills and attributes that are needed in order to develop into a successful teacher. The variation in every placement was so valuable, because it resulted in us all being able to clearly keep track of our own progress – and therefore set achievable targets for ourselves.

The most enjoyable aspect of my year spent with the Education Studies cohort was the freedom that we were given to explore educational issues that we were really passionate about. To a certain extent, that is the nature of final year study - being independent learners and being guided in our own research rather than explicitly taught. Each of my modules had an independent essay where we had to devise our own question to research. For me, this was fantastic. It enabled me to transfer the bulk of my primary education knowledge over to the final year – which made my transfer so much easier. I spent my final semester writing about how teachers can influence parental attitudes to phonics. Having spent the previous 2 years teaching phonics myself, and thus working closely with many parents on this, I did not feel out of my depth with the work, which reduced so many of my anxieties. Prior to transferring, I was so scared that I would not be capable of picking up a course so late and at such a crucial time. However, as I have previously mentioned, the nature of the teaching and assessment in Education Studies meant that I was able to pick up the course content quickly and easily – and perform well as a result.

Oxfordshire feels very much like a place where I belong. Being close to home in Oxford, so that I didn’t have to worry about my energy levels and personal care needs, I could focus on my studies and apply 100% of my dedication to them.

The future is an open question right now. Having started out in teacher training, this was obviously what I wanted and therefore aimed to do. That didn’t work out – but I still have a very strong desire to work with children and young people. With the above being said however, I am currently doing an internship at Brookes and loving it. It’s completely different to the career path I was taking before, yet I still really enjoy it. So who knows? A year can change many things – I’m just taking every opportunity I can at the moment, taking some time to work it out and seeing how it goes.

Looking back on my degree experiences – Brookes provided me with vital skills throughout that will help with my career. The primary teaching experience is self-explanatory, but the knowledge and expertise gained in those first two years was extremely transferable in terms of my Education Studies year. I can pretty much attribute all of my final year success to my background of practical experiences in primary and higher education. Then, naturally, my internship will (and currently is) providing me with a plethora of skills and attributes for the future – experience in the ‘real world’ of work, student facing customer service, administration and presentational skills, and many more to come throughout the year.

Nick Swarbrick was wonderful throughout the later stages of my second year and the whole of my third year. He was a tremendous help with the logistics of my transitional process between courses - and academically. He taught one of my double modules in third year (Becoming a Reader) and was always available to provide 1:1 support and guidance where needed. In addition to the above, he also temporarily took on the role of my academic advisor from September–December 2014 and provided support with elements of my dissertation. He always makes a real effort to get to know students as individuals and provide them with the best student experience possible. I’ll always be grateful to him for giving me the confidence to continue with my studies and always seeing my potential. I always felt as though I could approach him with questions or concerns – knowing that he would take these seriously and put me at ease.

I am also exceptionally grateful to Jon Reid and James Percival, who always endeavoured to make my transition between courses as smooth as possible – whilst actively encouraging me to incorporate my primary education knowledge into as many aspects of my independent work as possible. It is definitely the staff who go the extra mile that make Brookes such a nice place to study (and work!).

I am very grateful for all of the opportunities I have had whilst being a part of Brookes. Academically and personally, I have grown so much since starting at Brookes in 2012 and it is all down to the amazing and rich experiences that Brookes provides for students.