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Our People – Becky Edwards

Becky Edwards

Becky Edwards is a Senior Lecturer in Early Childhood Studies and heads up the university’s 12-week bridging course, From Adversity to University.

Tell us about your role at the university.

I am the programme lead for BA(Hons) Early Childhood Studies and I created a new project: From Adversity to University (A2U), supported by our head of department Chris Smethurst.

So I now also head up A2U – providing wrap-around support and bridging courses for non-traditional students who have experienced adversity in many forms, providing them with the skills to apply for university or just to start believing in themselves again. This includes care leavers, those affected by homelessness and addiction, ex-prisoners, asylum seekers and refugees.

I also lead our peer mentor programme which has been running successfully for five years.

So a little bit of everything, and that is what makes the 鶹Ƶ such an interesting place to work. There’s never a dull moment and always a new challenge

When did you join the university and what brought you here?

I joined the university permanently in 2017. I had done some guest lecturing on the Early Childhood Studies programme while running Chichester Children’s Centre. I had also been an onsite supervisor for the social work students placed with us at the children’s centre.

What brought me here? Early Childhood Studies seemed to pull together all the threads of my life. As a qualified primary school teacher who has always focused on Special Educational Needs (SEND), especially autism, I have travelled the world taking on various roles with young children. I worked in France as an au-pair; in a SEND nursery in Germany; in Rhode Island with SEND adults who had spent 40 years in an institution; in California for a Montessori nursery; and I taught adults English in Switzerland. In the UK, I taught in an autistic unit and in various nursery school roles, including SENCO and children’s centre manager.

I helped a friend set up a charity called the Parent and Carers Support Organisation (PACSO) which is now the largest respite provider in West Sussex, and in 1997, my first children’s book was published My Brother Sammy (and won several very small prizes) and was the first of four published children’s books. When our kids were five and six we took them out of school and travelled Europe an old campervan where I home-schooled.

Early Childhood Studies is for students who want to work with children and families but are not sure in what way. It seemed to be a perfect fit for my patchwork career.

“I think what I love about the university is that we are small enough to really care about our students.”

What’s an average day at work like for you?

I am not sure that there is an average day. Most days I am lecturing – either for Childhood or on a bridging course. The days are quite long because many of the bridging courses run in the evening.

Often I meet with students for 1:1 tutorial or to support them through difficult times. We are very proud of our open door policy in our department. I also meet with new students for the bridging course, often going out to where they live because that is where they feel safe.

I also link up with community projects and we run some peer mentor trainings in the evening (with pizza and chocolate).

What do you love most about working at the 鶹Ƶ?

I think what I love about the university is that we are small enough to really care about our students. They truly are a name to us and not just a number. I realised how special this was when my children went to university and in the three years they were there, no one seemed to know who they were. There is nothing more important than our students, that’s why we are here. It feels like there is a heart that beats beneath the academic rules and regulation, and that is something that we should be very proud of.

Also, many of the staff have not followed traditional routes into academia. This is a particular strength of the university. If you have worked in the ‘real’ world, there is a broader understanding of the transformational potential of education and the difference it can make to everyone. I also love the fact that many of our students are the first in their family to ever go to university.

What is your greatest achievement in your job?

Graduation Day is one of my proudest moments every year. I love watching our students who began their university journey so full of angst and uncertainty walk confidently across the stage –that is why we do what we do.

I am so proud of the Childhood with Therapeutic Play module that our department created. Sam McNally, who leads it, is amazing and has helped provide a link with Play Therapy UK to ensure we can also now offer a masters in Play Therapy.

I’m proud of the book by friend and colleague Heather Green called True Partnerships in SEND, looking at ways in which professionals and parents of children with SEND can work better together. It is shaped by the views of parents rather than academics and professionals.

And I am so proud of A2U and of every one of the 200 students who have been part of it. In this world, while ability is equally distributed, opportunity is not. The 鶹Ƶ is giving me the chance to begin to try and right that wrong.

The only other thing I would like to say is how lucky I am to work with such a small and amazing team – we are not just colleagues, we are friends. There are few workplaces where you can truly say that.

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Date published

01 Jul 2024

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