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The importance of continuing professional development in the early years industry

Maria Culley is a professional nanny from Silsden, West Yorkshire. Having qualified in Early Years in 2009, she is currently completing a Level 4 Certificate in Neuroscience in Early Years. Maria tells us how Continuing Professional Development (CPD) has been vital to both her professional and personal development:

Working in the early years industry for over 15 years, I’ve witnessed and been part of much change. Like many others, it’s an ever-evolving industry, with parents’ and their children’s unique needs, and as a nanny, I must remain swiftly responsive. With this, CPD is critical in enabling me and other nannies to develop and grow, both professionally and personally.  

When I worked within nurseries, CPD opportunities were frequently provided to staff. This included courses on safeguarding, and management and leadership, both of which enabled me to develop professionally within early years. Each year, I also attend the industry exhibitions and conferences to complete professional development courses, meet other childcare professionals and have the opportunity to network. As a result, I have built a wider network of childcare industry friends and colleagues and have furthered my key knowledge and skills.

However, when I made the decision to transition to the nanny industry, it came as a huge surprise to me that CPD was so uncommon. The pandemic threw not just the nanny industry but the whole childcare industry in chaos. As the labour market became increasingly competitive, I knew I needed to keep learning to find work and be the best professional nanny I could be. Holding a diploma in Childcare and Education along with industry experience was insufficient.

While researching into what I could do next, I came across The Neuroscience of Early Intervention Conference. Attending the virtual event gave me the chance to meet other like-minded professionals from the industry whilst developing my knowledge on the subject. The conference had reignited my passion for early years and helped me to decide to continue my journey in early years and neuroscience.

Feeling inspired by the Neuroscience of Early Intervention Conference, I signed up to study the NCFE Level 4 Certificate in Neuroscience in Early Years through APeducation Online, whilst working a 60-hour week, commuting between London and West Yorkshire. This hard work and determination paid off, as I was also honoured the ‘Outstanding Student Award’ by APeducation in August this year!

The importance of neuroscience in early years 

The pandemic has highlighted the importance of children's mental health, however the use of neuroscience and its findings run a lot deeper. Working within the early years industry and as a nanny, it’s vital that we all have a deeper upstanding of what is happening to children when they are exposed to trauma, stress and adverse childhood experiences. Neuroscience opens the door and understanding of how we can genuinely help promote and provide the best possible outcomes of children. 

I certainly never thought I would love neuroscience in early years! The research and knowledge wasn’t easily accessible when I qualified years ago, but it’s great that a lot more is available today to support our understanding. We owe it to our babies and children to keep abreast of developments in research, and to provide the best care and education.

It’s important to find your network of nannies because it can be a lonely, isolating and competitive industry. The Neuroscience Nanny Network is an online platform for nannies to connect internationally, meet up across the UK, share ideas and develop our love and knowledge of neuroscience. As more research comes to light, and parenting and learning styles change and develop, it’s vital you find where your strengths as a professional nanny lie. Being child-centred is a must, if you are to provide a high quality, unique experience for every infant/child in your care.

NCFE offer a range of CPD qualifications which have been developed by sector experts, including the Level 2 Award in an Introduction to Neuroscience in Early Years and the Level 4 Certificate in Neuroscience in Early Years. You can also find our free CPD handbook here and further resources on the CACHE Alumni website, who are a valuable network and source of CPD for nannies.