Sophie Petherbridge-Conroy has been Nursery Manager at Ark Start Oval for two years and is completing a master's in Early Years Education. She explains the role the nursery has played in her professional development.

“In my last early years role, I didn’t feel I was developing. I knew I wanted to become a qualified teacher but couldn’t see a way to make it happen without taking a pay cut while I trained. When I interviewed with Ark, I explained what I wanted to do and the support I received was incredible. My fast-track teaching qualification has been fully-funded, in return for three years’ service, which I’ll be very happy to provide. There has been so much opportunity to grow. 

It’s the most ambitious and supportive setting I’ve worked in. We’re all striving to be the best we can and everyone learns from each other. There are conversations constantly about what works, how we can improve. And through the coaching, everyone is on a professional path. That’s win-win for us and for the children. So much research shows the importance of high-quality early years settings and the importance of retaining staff. This job isn’t easy and that sense of purpose really helps you through the tough days. I come into work and I feel happy because I know I’m progressing and the children in the setting are being supported by the staff to fulfil their potential. 

What’s most special about it for me is the connection with Ark’s primary schools. It’s helped me with my teacher training and it means we don’t feel isolated as an early years setting. There’s much more of a sense of partnership with the primary schools. I can talk with confidence to a school about what we’re doing and how that will feed into their work in reception. My long-term vision for myself now is to become a Head of Early Years.”