Innovative Ayrshire College students take Early Years online

February 8, 2021 - Jane Moore

In Partnership with Parents Early Education Partnership (PEEP), Early Years students have adapted a programme aimed at children under the age of five and their parents or carers.

The programme encourages parents and carers to help their children become confident communicators, learning by talking, singing, sharing books and playing together.

Lecturers are trained as Peep facilitators, and with Level 6 Early Years students supporting, the sessions are an alternative work experience for students.

Peep sessions ran every week last year on each of the main Ayrshire College campuses and were well attended by parents, carers, childminders and grandparents.

However, during the Covid-19 pandemic the students wanted to continue to offer the service and so decided to run the sessions online, from the comfort of their own home using Microsoft Teams. 

Early Learning and Childcare student Dawn McLean from Saltcoats told us what she gets out of participating in the sessions.

Dawn said “I went along to a session before I was a student and the first time I went, I didn’t know what to expect. Lecturer Laura Niven introduced herself and was very welcoming to me and my 3 year old son Ace. The room had lots of colours everywhere with several stations set around it with books, paintings, climbing platform and snack tables.

Ace was very shy to start with, but the students showed an interest in what activity he had chosen. Ace joined in and was happy to sit in the circle and loved it when his name was called in the welcome song.


Afterwards he chose several activities like painting and exploring the sensory baskets which encouraged his language development. The students asked lots of questions about the textures, materials and how it made him feel. The students also showed an interest in me through general chat, which helped to make me feel very included.

Although I went to other groups this was the only one I had been to where everyone participated. At other groups, the kids would play, I would wonder who to talk to and most parents would just be drinking tea.

We liked the Peep group because the time was suitable and the environment and people were friendly.While in the group I spoke to Laura about attending college for the Childcare course. She was extremely helpful, and I am so glad I came back to college.

Now my experience in taking part in Peep sessions is from a student’s point of view. I am enjoying learning about the set-up of Peeps and how it can support parents and children in a completely unique way as everything is now online.

The planning behind the activities is particularly good and gives clear guidelines for students. It’s great as we can apply our skills, encourage each other to join in and give feedback to help each other out.

The experience has not only enhanced my son's confidence and language skills, it has been life changing in terms of my Early Years career, and I feel very positive for the future.”

Early Years Lecturer, Laura Niven said about the benefits of the online sessions. “The sessions benefit both the students by providing opportunity to develop practical skills through our online PEEP project.

Within each session the students focus on a session aim and share that with the group. These aims are taken from sessions strands like early literacy, early maths, personal social and emotional development, communication, health and physical development. All resources are things that most people have at home but we always offer alternatives as it is important at these times that we don't encourage people to go to shops unnecessarily.

Every session starts off with 'the hello song' which is personal and individual to each child and their adult. Within each session children and their adults get the opportunity to engage in song, stories and activities which all focus on the session aim. The session ends with the goodbye song and an opportunity for parents to enjoy a conversation with each other.

The trial sessions were a great success and our students are now preparing for the sessions which started in January 2021 by delivering Peep sessions to classmates and their children.

The students also have a Facebook page with over 500 followers which continues to go from strength to strength. The page has a range of students, practitioners, parents and those with a keen interest in Early Learning and Childcare.

I am immensely proud of the students this year. 2020 was a challenge doing the last few months learning online but this year we are continuing online and they have really embraced it. Our students would love to be out in placement or having contact in College with adults and their children but they know that's not possible at the moment. However they won't let that stop them achieving their goals. As they adapt to the situation, the students will be taking a new resilience out in to the workforce which is fantastic!”

Applications for Early Years courses starting in the Autumn are open now.

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