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Case Study

Eleanor Sweeney

London, UK

PGCE Early Years Teaching (DL)


Eleanor Sweeney was working as an assistant principal of an international kindergarten in Hong Kong, when she decided she wanted to develop in her career. She enrolled onto the PGCE Early Years Teaching (DL) course at Sunderland as she’d heard good things about it from fellow teachers. She is currently still working as an assistant principal and hopes to later progress to principal in a bigger school.

I started teaching in Barcelona, Spain, a journey that has since led me to multiple countries around the world. Ten years later, I moved to Hong Kong and found a position relatively quickly, as an assistant principal of an international kindergarten. I found the new role challenging at first as it was quite different to being in the classroom, and I came across many cultural differences when it came to work-life balance and educational ideologies. I loved being in a managerial role and the new experiences it offered. After three years in this role, I decided that I wanted to stretch myself and develop further in this profession, so decided to enrol onto the PGCE Early Years Teaching (DL) course at the University of Sunderland

I chose to study with Sunderland because it has a great reputation amongst teachers in Hong Kong and it is recognised internationally. I like that it's delivered via distance learning, in the sense that you can adapt studying around your work and home life, but you never feel you are doing it on your own. There is a lot of support from your personal tutor, who is very personable and easy to communicate with when you are struggling and need a little extra guidance. The modules are interesting, particularly the one which enabled us to explore the aspects and ideologies of Early Years education that we were most interested in.

I would recommend the University of Sunderland to teachers who would like to develop their understanding and expertise in the field – I think it is a great stepping stone to developing teaching careers. I’d advise anyone thinking of doing this course to just do it! I hesitated for two years, unsure I could manage it on top of my full-time, high-pressure job, but I could, and I did! I had many doubts about it beforehand and was really nervous to take it on, but as soon as I started, I realised that it’s more manageable than I had thought. I also think that’s because I enjoyed it much more than I imagined – the year went really fast!

I will continue in my current role as assistant principal for the time being; the school I work at is very supportive, and I hope that my studies will help me better support my team of teachers and rebuild relationships with parents after a testing few months. It has been a really challenging year for schools in Hong Kong, and my position means that I am face to face with parents and will spend the coming months rebuilding bridges. I have learnt a lot about parent-school relationships on the course and I am sure I will put a lot of it into my practice. In the long term, I would like to continue as an assistant principal, later progressing to principal in a bigger school in Hong Kong, or elsewhere in the world.

Studying at Sunderland has been stimulating and extremely rewarding – it has reignited my passion for studying.”

Published 1 May 2020

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