Thinking of a Foundation Apprenticeship? - Jessica McArthur's Story

June 27, 2019 - Katie Ralston

Thinking of studying a Foundation Apprenticeship in Social Services Children and Young People?

Jessica McArthur, an S6 pupil from Marr College is on the verge of finishing the 2 year course, and we caught up with her to find out what she thinks of the course and her work placement.

Click here for more information about the course.

Jessica is sharing her story to encourage others to stand out from the crowd and get work experience before leaving school:

“I would recommend this course to anyone. It’s about real life experience. It will give you the upper hand when you leave school and it’s a great mix between being a school pupil and a College student. It’s a stepping stone I feel is so beneficial.”

Jessica started the course in June 2017 as part of her S5 timetable. During the first year she spent two afternoons per week at College and the rest at school studying for National 5s and Highers. Currently in her second year, she spends the equivalent of one day on placement at a local nursery to complete the SVQ qualification.


Why a Foundation Apprenticeship?

“I really want to go into a career working with children, so I feel like the Foundation Apprenticeship is a really good way to start.

"I feel I am career focused, and wanted to fill my school timetable with a subject that will help me towards my future. I also prefer to learn in a more practical way, which this course offers me. I wasn’t planning to stay at school until S6, I planned on applying for a Modern Apprenticeship. The work placement in the second year of the course convinced me to stay, I think it’s really valuable and a good stepping stone to a Modern Apprenticeship.

"The course fits well in my timetable, my school has been great and worked my other subjects around it. It’s all very well organised, in S5 I went to college twice a week in the afternoon, this year I go to a nursery for my placement on a Wednesday morning and Friday afternoon. The College provides a taxi from Marr College to the Cherry Tree in Ayr and back for me.

"Alongside the Foundation Apprenticeship I studied Higher English, National 5 Maths, Higher Admin, National 5 R.E. and National 5 Food Technology in 5th year. In 6th year I am studying Higher English, Higher R.E, and Maths.”


“I really enjoy the practical aspects of the course, especially this year being on placement. I like that I can study at school and college at the same time.

"The theory is more challenging, just because I prefer the practical, but it isn’t anything I couldn’t do. I feel the lecturers are really supportive as well.

"My parents are happy I am studying the course. My dad works a lot with Modern Apprentices, so when he heard about Foundation Apprenticeships, he thought it was a great stepping stone into a Modern Apprenticeship for me. It sets me apart from other people on my CV, job applications and applications for college/university.”

Year 2 Placement

“I felt I was more prepared when I started in my placement at the nursery because of all the theory we covered in the first year. I was still scared though, only because you can’t really teach someone how to act around children naturally.

"On the first day I was nervous because I didn’t know what I was walking into and I was surrounded by lots of excited children running around. By the end of the second week I wasn’t nervous anymore. All the staff at the nursery are really supportive and have been an important part of my development.

"I have been working closely with a child with additional support needs, I do a lot of one to one activities with him. I have also been asked by the staff to come up with ideas for arts and crafts activities, and then actually deliver the session to the children. It’s all a part of the Foundation Apprenticeship that I need to plan and execute activities that can be observed.

"One of my favourite activities, and one I was responsible for setting up, was Christmas card crafts. It’s important that I can demonstrate how my activities link to the children developing their numeracy and literacy skills. The session went really well and I felt great that I had been responsible for coming up with the idea and then delivering it."

How do you feel in the Nursery?

“I feel somewhere in between an actual staff member and a student. It’s important that I have support from the staff when I am running activities, but there are times when I am working with a group of children and no one is telling me what to do, or how to act, that I feel like one of the staff. There is an element of self-confidence and working alone needed to be successful on placement.

"I feel like having had the opportunity to work in a nursery over the last year has really set me up for when I leave school. I wouldn’t have known how I felt working in that environment otherwise.

"The work placement helps you build confidence in working with children, it’s not something people really think about, but it’s scary going from being a school pupil to working in a nursery.

"I have really enjoyed my time there and have become really attached. I just love it.”

End Goal

“I am hoping to either attend college full-time studying an Early Years course or progress to a Modern Apprenticeship in Early Years. I am leaning towards the Modern Apprenticeship, just because it is more practical based and I feel I would learn better in that environment.

"After that I would like to be an Early Years Practitioner and hopefully study for a degree at university.

"I see a real difference in myself, I feel I am ready to leave school now. I have had that taster of what college is like and I can see myself transition comfortably to that. I am actually excited to leave school now.

"I think I am more confident in myself now as well. I felt before I was quite a shy person but obviously working in a nursery you can’t be quiet. I was out of my comfort zone on the placement because I actually had to ask questions when I was stuck or needed help. It has brought out my confidence in myself. I also feel sure of myself as well. Working with children will mean I need to take charge and not hide away or be shy, I feel I can do that now.

"I would recommend this course to anyone. It’s about real life experience. It will give you the upper hand when you leave school and it’s a great mix between being a school pupil and a college student. It’s a stepping stone I feel is so beneficial.”

Thinking this might be the route for you or someone you know? Course information is here and more about what a Foundation Apprenticeship is can be found here.

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