Donna Harvey

FdA Childhood Education

Donna Harvey, mother of three and mature student from Penryn completed the FdA Childhood Education degree after making the decision to further her career beyond the role of a Teaching Assistant.

I wanted to take more ownership of what I was doing, and I just wasn’t getting that fulfilment as a Teaching Assistant – I needed to be the Teacher.

Previously working at a secondary school with children who have special educational needs, Donna decided that it was younger children that she wanted to teach, supporting them earlier on in their lives. The FdA Childhood Education degree helped to lay down the foundations for her primary school teaching career, and encouraged her to find a volunteer placement at a local school.

Owed to her volunteer work, Donna now holds a part-time paid job as a Higher Level Teaching Assistant at the school, meaning that she can teach her own cover lessons to boost her teaching experience.

First in the family to go to College, Donna studied her A Levels at 16 and went straight into work, thinking that she would need to move away to get a University level education. Fortunately she was able to stay and study in Cornwall for her degree, deferring her place until her youngest child started pre-school.

Donna Harvey, FdA Childhood Education student at Truro and Penwith College

Donna decided to further her career by studying to become a teacher

Although slightly apprehensive about studying, Donna knew that it was the right thing to do for her: “It’s okay that I’m not at home with the children all of the time, because I will soon become a role model for my three girls.”

She said: “I thought that my biggest issue would be studying as a mature student, but it has in fact been an advantage, because I already have many life skills such as organising a family household, which is transferrable to essay planning. I also learnt to arrive at College early to transition out of ‘mum-mode’ and into ‘study-mode’.”

With smaller class sizes, it’s much easier for students of all ages, to bond and work well together.

I was never made to feel older, and because there was only a small group there was a lot more opportunity for discussion during lectures, meaning that you become much more involved in directing your own learning.

Donna proves that the right study-life balance can exist if you organise yourself and your schedule, creating something that works for you and your family. The challenge is that you need to stick to the schedule, but you also need to be flexible at the same time.

Family time in the Harvey household was scheduled for a Thursday evening, ensuring that Donna always had time to spend with her children: “I’m really looking forward to my three daughters seeing me graduate, so I can show them that mum’s can work too. The best part of this so far is when my 12 year old daughter said to me ‘I’m proud of you mum’; it really summed up my achievements.”

Having now completed her foundation degree, Donna will study the BA (Hons) Education and Training degree, before continuing onto her teacher training year: “The two year course has been hard but now I feel really accomplished, coming out with a 2.1 – if someone had told me that I would be at this point now, I really wouldn’t have believed them!”

In addition to her excellent results, Donna was also presented with a Principal’s Commendation and the Bianca Trew Award which is usually given to a student who takes a creative approach to teaching and learning throughout their academic studies.

Lecturer Diane Forrester describes the reasons behind presenting the award: “Donna is a mature student, wife and mother to three girls, who has achieved consistently high grades evidencing the time and commitment she afforded her studies. In conjunction with her degree work, Donna also works in an educational setting giving her a breadth of experience which was demonstrated throughout her assignments. Her work within school enabled her to be creative whilst still maintaining academic rigour.”

Donna certainly has excelled within her field of study and looks to have a promising future ahead within the teaching industry.

It’s now or never – I decided that it’s my time to do something for myself, so my advice to other mature students is to just go for it!