21 May, 2021 | Posted by Michelle Hogan

Early Childhood Education Degree After 24 Years in the Sector Was Like ‘Lightbulbs Switching On’

pencils early years classroom

As the early years sector in Ireland continues to become more professionalised and graduate-led, practitioners and setting owners with years of experience might be wondering what is the point? 

What benefit can a degree bring after over 20 years of living the experience every day?  

Portobello graduate, Sinead Lawson, who works at the Ombudsman for Children’s Office (OCO) said going back to study her Level 7 Early Childhood Education degree gave her a deeper understanding of the work she had done throughout the years.

When I started doing it (Level 7 degree) I had been in the early years sector for 24 years so it was making those connections, those light bulbs switching on with things that I had been doing for years and years and then finally getting to the depth of the theory and knowledge of all those things I had been doing. 

I found it so incredibly rewarding, so useful and such a great thing to do at the age and stage of my career that I was, I think I appreciated it so much more than if I had have done it with no experience to make those connections, it was such a great time to do it.  

Prior to that most of my career has been overseas. I am Irish but I grew up abroad, I came back when I was 18 and did Montessori teaching and then went off and taught all over Asia and never really had the opportunity to do the degree but I did want to do it. When I moved back here in 2018 when I heard about the programme at Portobello I just thought it would be perfect while I was working to be able to go ahead and do it,” she said.


What Did You Gain? 

There was so much that I got out of it, in regard to the theory behind so much of what we do in the early years working with children and what really benefitted me in the job that I’m doing now at the office of the Ombudsman for Children’s office was the great links throughout the course to Irish legislation in and around early years and children.  

When I went for my interview at the Ombudsman for Children’s Office so many of the questions were about legislation in Ireland regarding children and if you had have asked me to go along to that interview before I had started doing my Level 7, I would have really struggled.  

I don’t think ultimately, I would have gotten the job doing what I am doing now because every assignment we did we pretty much had to refer to Irish legislation and policies and that in itself was a huge benefit for me, and I think it would be for anyone interested in going into public sector jobs like working with POBAL or working with Tusla 

It is so valuable to tie all that policy and legislation in with the assignments because it’s just important to be aware,” she said. 


Rewarding on so many levels 

"While I was doing the Level 7 I was working as the manager of a creche and I encouraged one of the staff members who worked with me to sign up for the Level 7 in Portobello and she did. I think the most important thing for me is if you are thinking even the slightest bit about doing it – go and do it.  

It’s so satisfying and rewarding on so many levels on your personal life for that accomplishment of achieving a degree perhaps after a number of years of thinking about it it’s a great achievement and something to be so proud of especially when you are working at the same time as studying.  

You are making time out of your already busy schedule to make the commitment and do it and that staff member I worked with was so grateful she told me she was so happy I told her to stop thinking about it and just do it. Anyone who asks me I say do it, it’s a great achievement,” she said.  


Feel like you are lacking the confidence to come back and study? Read what Sinead said about that here.  


Why Study at Portobello Institute?

No matter what level of education you currently hold, Portobello Institute can guide you on your path to gaining a Level 9 in Early Childhood Studies.  

Our programmes start at Level 5 and Level 6 ECCE and Montessori. From there you can progress on to your Level 7 BA (Ord) degree. You can add a research project to your Level 7 and make it a BA (Hons) Level 8 and from there move on to your Level 9 all while building relationships with our tutors who will support you every step of the way.

The quality and experience of our tutors means you are learning from people who are qualified and know what they are talking about. You are not just a student number at Portobello, your tutor knows your name. 

Portobello Institute offers blended learning options so you can study online from anywhere in the world at times that suit you and your work/family life.

We have small class sizes and one-on-one tutor support to help make your goals accessible to you. 

We know that funding and the cost of education is a barrier for many people. We have set up easy payment plans so you can spread the cost over time.

Portobello Institute is the leading provider in early years education in Ireland with 40 years of experience. 


Click here to book a consultation to speak to our Early Years & Montessori advisor, Jennifer Matteazzi, about where you are on this journey and how we can guide you to achieve your goals. Call her directly on 01 892 0031 or email jennifer.matteazzi@portobelloinstitute.com.

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