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Educate and advocate

Dr Julie Sealy

An image of Dr Julie Sealy.

Part of a partnership between the Department of Social Sciences and the Faculty of Education, Senior Lecturer in Early Years Education, Dr Julie Sealy, teaches on our BA (Hons) Early Childhood Studies Degree in Social Sciences. Julie is passionate about exploring education in a critical context and challenging educational policy. Let’s hear more from Julie.

You combine the study of Education and Early Childhood. What is your background and specific interests in this area?

I’ve always worked in educational settings, but my personal background is as a social worker within the educational context and my main interest is in special educational needs (SEND). Previously working in this field, gaining first hand insights of parents and families, is what makes me feel so strongly about advocacy. I like to bring the idea of challenging educational policy to the Social Sciences programme – the idea that if you go on to a career in education, you are there not only as a teacher, but as a social agent; you are there to advocate. I love that the BA (Hons) Early Childhood Studies programme blends the theoretical aspects of the social sciences modules with the more practical aspects of the education programmes that I also teach on. The Social Sciences programme has always looked at the critical contexts, so the idea to integrate with education was to add an insight into the practical side and combine the two approaches.

“if you go on to a career in education, you are there not only as a teacher, but as a social agent; you are there to advocate.”

Dr Julie Sealy
An image of a child using a large red magnifying glass to look at something on the ground.

How can students explore these topics on their degree?

On the Early Childhood Studies programme, there is an incredible range of modules available to investigate different areas. The second year optional module Child Welfare, Family and the State for example, delves into critical views on anti-oppressive aspects of childhood and understanding children’s rights, particularly anti-discriminatory practices within early childhood. There is also the first year module Early Years Pedagogy and the optional second year module Early Years Specialism on which students will combine theory with learning practical skills such as Makaton Sign Language and working with parents.

Research is also a big part of the programme and many students go on to postgraduate research too. One of our Masters students, Jane Abrams, has recently undertaken a unique and impactful research project investigating the use of isolation rooms as a form of punishment in schools – a project which the Head of Department and I supervised and continue to publicise the importance of.

Why is this research into school isolation rooms so important?

It’s a powerful and emotional piece of research, particularly as isolation punishment and exclusion from school is not a very well researched area. It not only highlights the importance of challenging educational policy, but that the opinions of children matter when it comes to decision-making. From our research we argue that although the use of isolation rooms as a form of punishment is inherently bad practice in terms of the impact on a child’s mental and physical wellbeing, it is still a continually approved policy within education. These are also the types of children that many of our students will work with after their degree, so it is vital that they understand the importance of listening and understanding how these young children feel. We need to know that our students are not only going out there prepared to work in education environments and combining theory with practice, but that they are equipped with a critical mind and the confidence to ask questions and challenge aspects of educational policy, like these.

An image of two children playing with water on the ground in a forest, they are crouched down.

Why should students choose to study on the BA (Hons) Early Childhood Studies degree at Edge Hill?

When I ask students why they chose this programme specifically, the response is usually because they know they want to work in early childhood and with young people, but they don’t want to narrow this to teaching. That’s what’s great about this programme – students can explore education but are also prepared to go into other fields of work such as family support work, paediatric nursing, social work, speech and language therapy or play therapy, for example. Even if you are sure you want to go into teaching, I think the reason for choosing this degree programme is that it gives students much broader perspectives. Students on this programme won’t only learn how to teach, they will also have the confidence to ask questions and fight for change. This is also an internationally recognised degree with the Early Childhood Studies Network. The additional option of the Early Years Graduate Practitioner Certificate allows students to undertake one placement per year, really enhancing their career opportunities.