26 May, 2021 | Posted by Michelle Hogan

How Portobello Prepared Me For My Job at the Ombudsman for Children’s Office


Gaining your Level 8 degree in Early Childhood Studies opens new career opportunities inside and outside the early years setting.  

For Portobello graduate, Sinead Lawson, her journey through the Level 7 BA (Ord) degree and Level 8 BA (Hons) degree prepared her for her role in the Ombudsman for Children’s Office (OCO).  

The OCO is a human rights institution that works to protect the rights of children and young people in Ireland, it investigates complaints about services provided to children by public organisations. 

After over 20 years working with children, Sinead now works as an Early Resolution Officer at the OCO which allows her to follow her passion for working with children but on a more national level outside of the early years setting.  

She credits her Level 7 degree for her in-depth knowledge of policy and legislation in Ireland.

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.

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.  

After finishing her Level 7 degree Sinead progressed straight into her Level 8 which is a path taken by many Portobello students.  

For her Level 8 dissertation, Sinead carried out research on matters of gender in early years.  

“I felt that the honours degree would be more useful to me, that’s not to say the Level 7 wouldn’t be enough for others.  

“I know plenty of people stop at Level 7 get the higher capitation and that’s enough for them but for me because I was thinking about moving into the public sector and I was looking at jobs in that area and I just think the Level 8 shows to a prospective employer that little bit more commitment to the learning.

"I found it great, I found Jacinta Murphy (tutor) was great she set up phone conversations and I never felt rushed. She would spend 45 minutes on the phone with me sometimes talking through different things and bouncing ideas off of each other and gave me lots of ideas in moving forward with my research project," she said.  

After years of working in early years settings around the world, Sinead came home in 2018 and worked as a manager of a setting.

She felt constrained within that role and wanted to work towards something different while still following her passion for working with children.  

I struggled with how constrained I felt in the early years sector in Ireland in that I felt there was so much emphasis on administration, compliance, inspections, making sure everything was up to date and ready for inspections that I felt like what we are really meant to be there for which is the children and their education and providing them with learning opportunities that are going to equip them for their journey onwards for the rest of their lives just felt wasn’t focused on enough 

After so many years working directly with children I came to a decision that if I want to stay in Ireland that perhaps that role in a creche just wasn’t going to be for me. 

I was lucky enough that a job opportunity arose at the Ombudsman for Children’s Office. I applied for it and I was successful in obtaining the position, it gave me the opportunity to move my passion for working with children from a small setting level to a more national level.  

To be involved in those kinds of situations where you are recognising trends and patterns of issues that are affecting children and being able to be involved with raising those to the next level.

It felt like a good progression career-wise also because I knew if I stayed in a creche as a manager that was really the end of it, that was as far as I’d be able to go.  

I thought that after everything I had learned on the degree with policy and legislation this position would give me the opportunity to stretch that and to put it to good use. 

“I’m working as an early resolution officer as part of the complaints and investigation team.  

“We are responsible for receiving complaints made by or on the behalf of children all over Ireland. Those complaints are ones that would be made against public bodies, we take complaints and examine them and see if we have a role in becoming involved in looking for a resolution to those problems. 

"The work is really fulfilling and so interesting, no two complaints are ever going to be the same and everyone is coming with different issues and different concerns, so it is fascinating work.

"When I first started, I was so grateful that I had the knowledge I did with the policies and legislations that are explored during the course because that’s so much of what we do, we have to follow legislation and policy,” she said.  

If you are inspired by Sinead’s move out of the early years setting and into a national role, follow in her footsteps with our upcoming courses.

Portobello Insider

Join our mailing list to receive the latest insights and exclusive content from your chosen department of interest