Children in Need

Darcie Caldcleugh believes her BSc in Child Health and Wellbeing prepared her “in the best way possible” for employment.

And she needed to be prepared.

After graduating in 2016, she now works as a children’s worker with a registered charity, helping young people experiencing domestic abuse. And it can be hard:

“I realised quite quickly that I needed to learn what worked for me in terms of being able to switch my ‘work-brain’ off once I’d left the office – but it took me a while to find my work-life balance, especially when I was in a role where I was required to do regular 24-hour on-call shifts.”

Immersing herself in a Netflix session, or going to the footie, helped her find that balance, but it was her training during the course that really paved the way for her to conquer the emotional demands of this – modules on child protection and safeguarding, research into domestic abuse, front line placements with organisations such as Greater Manchester Police.

But it’s knowing that what she does makes a difference that really helps get Darcie through the night:

“It’s easier to stay strong knowing that we are offering support to children and young people who really need it, where they may not have had a safe space to be able to talk about the things that they have experienced before. The one thing I like to make sure the children know is that I’m there primarily for them. Sometimes just having somebody to validate your feelings can make a big difference. Seeing children able to communicate their feelings, or knowing that their voice has been heard through the work I’ve done, helps to motivate me and to keep going.”

Darcie always knew she wanted to work with children – she just wasn’t sure about the specific area. Child Health and Wellbeing was the ideal course for her, then, because it covered children and young people of all ages across a broad range of subjects, ultimately providing access to a similarly broad range of career options on graduation.

What she was sure about was where she wanted to learn:

“I was drawn to Edge Hill University from the minute I began looking at higher education. I can’t speak highly enough of the tutors as they really do bring so much knowledge to the course. You can tell that the tutors are genuinely passionate about what they’re teaching, and this makes for a really great environment to learn in. I found that whenever I was struggling, the tutors would take the time to help guide me through the topic until I felt confident.”

And she had the opportunity to build into her programme optional modules which she believed could strengthen her employability armoury, such as a crash course in Complementary and Alternative Therapies:

“The things that I learned researching mindfulness have really come in handy when working with children and young people who show signs of struggling with anxiety. Of course, in cases where the child needs direct support from a specialist service we would refer, however with some children who may just need to explore coping strategies, mindfulness offers a simple and effective strategy to allow them to learn how to calm themselves down in stressful or anxious situations.”

Moira Little leads on the BSc Child Health and Wellbeing programme and believes that the transferable skills students pick up during the course, alongside the placement opportunities, make graduates very attractive to employers:

“We provide a range of enrichment and ‘added value’ experiences throughout the three-year programme, including British Red Cross paediatric first aid training, the Solihull Parenting Programme, Heartstart instructor training for cardiac emergencies, basic food hygiene training, mental health first aid, and community sport training.”

Pragmatism lies at the heart of the course philosophy, which aims from the start to mentally and physically prepare students to enter a work environment where they are likely to face some upsetting situations, and are able to think on their feet, and use creativity to tailor their responses in each individual case.

Moira says that the team of Edge Hill teachers plays a crucial role in preparing people for work:

“The team includes sociologists, psychologists, nutritionists, dieticians, health visitors, paediatricians, learning disability and mental health nurses, nursery owners, criminologists and counsellors. They have work and life experiences that allow them to share examples, to enable students to conceptualise situations, and make very important links between theory and practice.”

The cornerstone of the course, then, is the emphasis on mandatory four-week work placements, with students encouraged to take further opportunities should they arise. Darcie spent a month with the Greater Manchester Police Child Protection team:

“I was able to shadow officers not only carrying out visits and interviews, but getting first-hand experience on how child protection laws and legislations are applied. I found I had a particular interest in domestic abuse, which inspired my dissertation topic around child sexual abuse. Seeing professionals interacting with children and families who were experiencing difficult, and in some cases, traumatic circumstances was invaluable, as I now deal with those situations on a daily basis and can build on what I experienced within my placement to ensure that I’m providing the best support possible for any family I may work with.”

With such a positive and effective training experience behind her, Darcie is taking professional life in her stride. But she is also keen to emphasise how much she enjoyed the whole student experience:

“Going to University was my biggest aspiration and my greatest achievement. Edge Hill was everything I wanted University to be. I enjoyed every minute of living on campus during my first year – it helped that the accommodation was of a very high standard.”

Although admitting it’s odd, Darcie treasures memories of “walking back across campus at 4am after spending all night in the library, and getting back home to watch WrestleMania Live with flatmates: “I think that might have been when I truly felt like a student.” That, and spending Mondays down the local indie rock night.

And the University also provided her with something that it’s impossible to put a price on:

“The best thing I’ve come away from Edge Hill with (other than my actual degree) is the friendships I made. I’m still regularly in touch with my friends from my course and to be able to graduate with them by my side was the best ending to an amazing three years.”

And with that Darcie returns to trying to help transform the lives of other children and young people.

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