‘The vision I now have for my career is because of Ark Start.’

Rachel Thompson, an Early Educator at Ark Start, told us why working at the nursery has transformed her outlook.

“I always sing praises for Ark Start, because I know how it’s different. I’ve been here 15 months and, despite my 33 years in Early Years, I’m now a better practitioner. That’s a direct consequence of the investment in my skills since I started. It’s nothing else.

The attitude here is that everyone has a role to play and everyone has something to learn. Staff have regular coaching sessions – something that was totally new to me. Once I started being coached I realised I had become stale. For 30 years I had never seen a need to study beyond Level 3 in Childcare. Suddenly I wanted to keep developing.

Now I’m doing my Level 5. In this environment I think ‘Yes, I can do that.’ And once I’ve finished with my Level 5, I want to take it a step further. I want to do an Early Years degree and then possibly management or a PGCE. The vision I now have for my career is because of Ark Start. It’s given me the impetus, the confidence, to know what I can achieve. Now I feel like it’s never too late to do anything.

I know how hard working in Early Years can be. So many practitioners are disheartened and they’re leaving. They’re not getting support from their management, they’re not feeling respected, and the remuneration is not good. For me there’s nothing more important than Early Years and the staff working in it. We call it the Foundation Stage for a reason. It’s the foundation of society. What Ark Start’s doing is empowering the sector. I just think it’s a wonderful place.”

At Ark Start, the way I can work is aligned with my own experience of what works best for children. We call the children our play partners, I absolutely love that. They’re our friends and we respect them all as individuals. In my 33 years as an Early Years practitioner, I’ve never had the freedom to be so child-led.

One of my play partners had great interest in some birds that had gone into a birds’ nest in trees behind the nursery. He called me over and we spent time talking about the birds. I was able to show him more information about them on the iPad and then design an activity for him about birds the next day.

I would not have been able to take that kind of journey with a child before I worked at Ark Start. Because we know our children’s interests, we bring the learning to them. We know they do the greatest learning through the experiences that bring them joy.

If you are interest in a career at Ark Start click here to find out more.