I first heard about the Early Childhood Graduate Practitioner Competencies (ECGPCs) within the second semester of the first year on my course. I was instantly interested in this opportunity as it was an extra qualification for me to have additional to my degree and I was excited about the aspect of placement and enhancing my skills as a practitioner.
In first year, I was only able to gain a weeks experience due to COVID-19 hitting and sending everyone into lockdown. However, this allowed me to gain some insight into how placement would be and how I should prepare in advance for my next one. I learnt that it would be helpful to carry post-its with me to be able to instantly note anything that could go towards my evidence. I also wrote down all the competencies onto a set of revision cards that I kept handy so I could track across my evidence whenever I had some free time. I used my time in lockdown to carry out alternative work that could track across to my portfolio, such as joining relevant online seminars, researching health and safety procedures, and using case study examples to explain my knowledge.
I started my first proper placement in second year where I was put into a primary school reception class working with children aged 4-5 years old. This experience introduced me to what the day-to-day life was like in a setting, where I worked properly as part of an early childhood team and assisted with before school setting up, lunchtime supervision, safeguarding, after school and many other additional responsibilities. My setting was really helpful and flexible in allowing me to do whatever I needed towards my portfolio, which I found really exciting. I carried out various ideas, implemented a lot of new classroom changes, and completed a range of activities with the children, all of which I planned myself. This was a really enjoyable and fulfilling process which I was able to reflect upon and use to evolve further as a practitioner.
My third year placement was within a private nursery, where I was mainly based with children aged 18mnths-34mnths. This was a different environment to my previous experience, however the team were very welcoming and also very flexible in letting me complete my portfolio work. As I had completed most of my evidence within my second year placement, I used this time to focus on the competencies I hadn’t yet met as well as strengthening some I didn’t have much evidence for. This involved completing observations, discussing the setting’s various policies, and reporting on any experiences I had relevant to the competencies. After this, I finalised my portfolio by tracking across all relevant assignments from the three years of my course and formatting>printing>filing>tracking all my evidence I had created.
My most important piece of advice to anyone completing the ECGPCs would be to stay organised. I followed a system that worked for me that allowed me to complete placement, create evidence, and keep track of which competencies I had met throughout (personally, I would keep notes throughout the placement day, type these into something more tangible once I got home, then finalise the piece of work within the same week so I didn’t forget anything important). It is also important to make sure you are using the placement time wisely and communicating with your setting for them to help you have opportunities to carry out anything that could be filed as evidence. I found it was so easy to fall into just completing hours and working as part of the team within the setting, forgetting about your own work and what you’re needing to do as part of the competencies.
Overall, I really enjoyed my experience completing the competencies. It allowed me to gain better understanding of early education and apply my module work to a practical setting. Aside from this, it also boosted my confidence and helped me gain and development relevant childcare skills to utilise throughout my future career.