An award-winning mum has reached a new milestone in her career at the University of Sunderland Winter Graduation Ceremonies.
Just two months ago Helen Haygarth beat off hundreds of other entries from across the UK to be named the Early Childhood Graduate of the Year, at the Nursery World awards 2023.
And this week the mum-of-three, from Peterlee, ratches up another success in her career after completing her Masters in Childhood and Youth Studies.
“It’s been a lot of hard work, but worth all the effort. I’ve learned so much on this course which will help to further my professional practice. It’s been wonderful to be back at Stadium of Light to graduate. I’d also like to thank all the staff for their support and motivation to help me succeed.”
Before her university journey, Helen worked for many years in nursery settings for many years, but realised she couldn’t progress in her work without the right qualifications and took a major life decision to return to education at the age of 39. She completed a Foundation degree at East Durham College in 2017, followed by the University’s Education and Curriculum Studies top-up degree in Childhood Studies.
The gamble paid off and not only did she achieve First-Class Honours, but alongside her degree she also became the first graduate of a national pilot scheme – the Early Childhood Graduate Practitioner Competencies, which helps shape the identity of the early childhood workforce and strengthens the professional practice aspects of the degree.
She then decided she wanted to study the Master’s programme, having enjoyed her undergraduate degree so much. It was during the programme that academics put her forward for the Nursery World award.
The glittering awards are open to everyone involved in childcare and education and highlight the inspirational work that goes on. Winners are chosen by a distinguished panel of expert judges, representative of the diversity of disciplines and organisations that make up the sector.
Helen says: “It was such a joy to receive the award. The win was a result of every practitioner, academic, child and family I have ever worked alongside, and particularly the staff from the University. I am thrilled!”
It’s in her day job where Helen is also making a huge impact with Durham County Council in the Early Help Services, as the Engagement and Participation Lead for Family Hubs. The hubs were introduced by government to local authorities to offer early support to families and young children to help them overcome difficulties and build strong relationships.
Helen says: “Thanks to all the research and theory throughout my degree, it’s helped drive my current role which is to facilitate a panel of parents and carers to have voice across the Family Hubs provision in Durham. This role relies on my ability to build relationships, be inclusive, and truly listen and act upon the views and opinions of the panel.
“I am so proud of what we have achieved with the teams and families so far. We are getting the right level of support to those who need it. Every module I have done I have been able to connect and relate to every aspect of my job.”