Volunteering for placement with Outcomes First Group
Year 3 student Becca discusses why she took up a voluntary placement offered as part of her final year provision and her experiences as a result
Experience, who needs it?
Attending University is a perceived form of career advancement, but yet is seemingly not enough alone to achieve one’s aspirations. Though apprenticeships are now considered a viable option, University has always been emphasised as a successful route for young people. The perception of certain success handed to you on a plate post-graduation is far from true. University offers legitimate qualification, however access to jobs on the upper rungs is not guaranteed and definitely not immediate. If having come to University straight from college or a gap year, being constantly enrolled in institution after institution, we expect to believe success as immediate, as many of us may have experienced little to no gaps in our current educational career. My expectations of University were definitely aligned with these hopes of a sudden epiphany and realisation of a clear, plain-sailing path to success (and loads of money). Now in my third year, this is seemingly disappearing from view. Many of my aspiring job roles and further education options require experience, which indeed I chose to overlook. It has now become clear that experience is vital. As like many others, I have only just begun to consider my options post University. Not only does experience look attractive to employers and unlock access to higher qualifications, but the benefits it offers for your own learning, decision making, and personal growth are incomparable.
Placement is for you
My name is Becca, a third-year student of the Bsc Educational Psychology course here at Manchester. My enrolment was perhaps not typical in nature, as it involved a random phone call with the programme director on results day in attempt to escape my current graphic design degree, of which I hated so very dearly. Honestly, I hadn’t put a great deal of thought into this decision. And genuinely, I wouldn’t look back. With this obvious lack of thought and direction I had no idea where I wanted to end up and If I’d even enjoy any of it. Throughout the course many different aspects of psychology and education were explored, and many interested me. The overwhelming task of balancing uni, work and personal life whilst also trying to decide on future career chronically plagues us all. And I have to say, while all elements may yield reward, I have found it the hardest part of university life, as have many others. This juggling of priorities allows experience to slip to the back seat. The riches it offers are priceless and you might not know what you’re missing. And so when opportunities are handed to you, practically on a plate, take it- All you’ve got to do is eat it all up.
The organised placements with Outcomes First Group were perfect. After the head of their North West team introduced the opportunity to us, I took it. And for only one day a week, for a minimum of 4 weeks, that even works around lecture times, you’d be insane to pass up one such a convenient placement. While short in length, what I took from the experience was massive. It was a great length first placement that wasn’t overwhelming or taxing in the slightest, with enough time for me to come out feeling fully content in what I had gained. Being enrolled on an education course and having had no experience working with children (thanks Covid) or understanding of SEN yet, I certainly had no idea what to expect.
My placement was at Belmont high school. Since choosing not to focus on SEN in my modules, I knew little about it. However, preconceptions of others, including family and general society concerning SEN children were negative and apparent. On arrival staff were lovely, the sort of place where the groundskeeper says hi to you every morning. The lead of the OFG team there, Verity, was very down to earth and welcoming, and provided an organised timetable to give you an idea of each day every week. There was still flexibility and choice in what I got up to. I sat in lessons, therapy and speech sessions and had to chance to get involved as much/little as I wanted. I found 1-1 sessions to be a comfortable environment to really get involved, coming from someone who didn’t even know how to talk to children. I spent most days with Jamie, the therapist at the site. He was extremely comfortable to be around and answered every question I threw at him, even the personal ones including salaries and opinions. This really enhanced my experience, and coming away from the school I feel I have an actual understanding of the field and what actually goes on within it- something I feel sitting in lectures and seminars cannot provide. I really enjoyed working with Jamie and the children, I even miss it (and the free lunch too). Working with the boys so closely, it reminded me why I was interested in psychology in the first place. It has given me many ideas of what I want to do and given me accessible paths to aim towards, and more importantly the motivation to do so.
Making the most of placement
My only advice regarding OFG placements is to just go for it. It is organised so well and completely around you, its little inconvenience to your life and will provide you with so much more. Don’t just volunteer, take advantage- and do it the whole time. Ask all the questions, get completely involved and explore every area possible. Don’t just talk to the OFG team; speak to the teachers, find our their thoughts, opinions and pathways. This helped me so much in considering inevitable decisions I face about my future. This is something the school and staff 100% facilitated and I thank them for accommodating me for the time I spent there. As for academic positives, I gained an unmatched understanding of SEN having been able to observe actual behaviour and interact with actual children. It has really ignited an interest in me that wasn’t there before, especially surrounding current issues in SEN education. It gave me unique experiences to bring to discussions and enhanced my understanding of the course all round. OFG placement complements the course so well and enhances the already enjoyable and stimulating content. To get the most of your placement experience, I think you should go into it with little expectations and an open mind. This will allow you to reflect on experiences accurately and form your own opinion, which I deem valuable both in life and on the course.
Life after University no longer looms. I am excited for my future in the field, even If I spend a few years gathering similar experiences before embarking on what’s next. It’s important to remember to enjoy the journey and learn all you can from it. If opportunities come along, take them.
Thank you to Belmont and the OFG team.