Kyle Kilkenny – BEd (Hons) in Early Education and Care

Name: Kyle Kilkenny

From: Leitrim

School: St. Clare’s Comprehensive, Manorhamilton

Current Job: Special Needs Assistant in a Primary School

Tell us a little bit about yourself and what led you to choosing your degree.

I have always had an interest in working with children. During my time in transition year in secondary school, I carried out a placement in a primary school and from this experience, I had made the decision that working in the education sector with children was the career path I was going to pursue. I also carried out a lot of research on courses when it came to filling out my CAO form. I had a look through the module descriptors on the degree in ATU Sligo and I quickly decided that it was for me.

What specifically about the degree did you particularly enjoy?

A major part of the degree which I really enjoyed was the friendships that I have made over the four years and I know they will be my best friends for life. It definitely made university life easier, especially when it came to assignments as we all worked together to help each other.

Group work and continuous assignment were a big part of the degree. We worked on the modules for each semester and then completed an assignment or a group work piece and we were assessed on this. Personally, I found this great as we could work on the assignment at our own pace throughout the module rather than having the nervousness of a big exam at the end. The group work was also an excellent opportunity to get to know people and make friends.

What is the best thing about the degree that you think new applicants should know?

The best thing about the degree is the excellent work placement opportunities. In Year 2, I was placed in a Montessori Creche in Sligo. During this work placement, I got a great insight into the care of young children and learnt about the montessori curriculum. During Year 3, I was placed in a Primary School in Co. Donegal. Here I learnt about the education system and curriculum for primary schools. I also got a great insight and experience into working with children who have additional needs. I was also very lucky that a fellow student from the degree was placed in the same creche and school as me. This made the experience great also as we both helped each other along the way especially when it came to the portfolio work, meetings and visiting tutor inspections. I was very grateful for this and she is now one of my best friends.

Any favourite modules during your time studying Early Education and Care?

There were many modules that I enjoyed throughout the degree. Some of the ones which I enjoyed in particular were Psychology, Inclusive Practice and Transitions, Management and Leadership, Creative Practice, Welfare and Protection, and Law. Whilst studying Psychology, I learned about the development of a child and how to carry out regular observations to ensure they are meeting the milestones for their age. Inclusive Practice and Transitions, taught me about the many different types of additional needs there are, strategies that can be used to ensure they are included in the setting and the many different transitions that effect children both inside and out of a setting and strategies also that can be used to help the child. During Management and Leadership, I learnt about how a setting is managed and what skills and qualities makes an excellent leader and different strategies that should be used to ensure the smooth running of a service. During creative practice, I learnt about activities that can be taught to children, through the use of Art, Play, Drama and Nature. Welfare and Protection taught me about the importance of recognising any issues that may be affecting a child at home, what is to be done and my important role as a mandated person and the correct measures I should take to ensure the safety of the child. Family Law taught me about the laws that surround children and families and about the difference in courts. I think these are all very essential modules for working with young children.

What key skills did you learn while studying at ATU Sligo that have influenced your career?

During my time studying at ATU Sligo, I learnt many skills that have definitely influenced my career today. Firstly my confidence working with children has definitely improved. I feel that the knowledge, information, strategies and techniques that I learnt during the modules and during my time on placement has given me great knowledge and experience in working with children and especially with children who have additional needs. Teamwork is another excellent skill I obtained. I feel this is now very useful for my career especially while working with other professionals in the workplace to provide what is best for the children. My communication skills have greatly improved over the four years and this has been carried on to my career. I communicate well with other members of the school which I work in and I will continue to do this in the future. This includes class teachers, special education teachers, special needs assistants, school secretaries, children and outside professionals. Communication with parents is vitally important for the education and care of children and in my role, I am always communicating with children’s parents. During my time in ATU Sligo, my academic skills also improved gratefully. This has been done through assignments, presentations and research. This will help me greatly in my professional career when filling out reports or observations and if I continue into further studies of my own.

What does your current role involve?

When I finished college I was lucky enough that a job arose in a primary school close to where I live in Leitrim. I started in the school in September 2022. I am working in a job share position as a Special Needs Assistant. I am working with a child who has autism. I am really enjoying the role and it is a great experience. It was a big change for me at the start and it took some time to get used to the new role but I have a settled in very well. I am very lucky that all the staff and children are all amazing and very friendly which made the job very easy to settle into. On the days that I am off from the SNA role, I am completing EAL (English as an Additional Language) teaching. In this I am teaching English to Children from Ukraine. This is another great learning experience for me. Finally, one evening a week I am teaching traditional Irish music with my Local Ceomhaltas branch. I teach the tin- whistle to children. I really enjoy this too as I have a great passion for traditional music and I play many instruments myself also. It’s a busy time but I really love it and I am very grateful for how it has all worked out for me.

I am also studying Maths and Irish part time and I hope to re-sit these two Leaving Certificate subject exams in June to meet the entry requirements to progress my career and start a Professional Master of Education (PME) in Primary School Teaching. That will be my next adventure.

What advice would you share with our current students considering a career in your field?

The advice that I would give to other students who are considering a career in this field, if you have an interest in working with children I would say definitely apply for Early Education and Care in ATU Sligo. You gain so much knowledge from the modules. The experience that you get from the work placement is great too and it really builds on your confidence. Graduates have so many great opportunities and this leads to so many career choices. Some of these opportunities can lead to early years practitioners, special education, child psychology or leadership.

What did you like best about studying at ATU Sligo?

The best thing in my opinion was how friendly and helpful the lecturers were. If you had a problem or a question they were always very approachable and always willing to give their time to help you out. The university itself has a very close community which made it easier to meet people and make friends. The campus itself is a state of the art building with all new and modern facilities which made the experience great.

What advice would you give a first year student starting in ATU Sligo?

A piece of advice which I would give to a first year student would be to familiarise yourself with the campus itself. Once you get your new timetable for the semester, take a walk around and get to know where all your new rooms are. I would also say to get to know the library well, all the facilities there, how to book library rooms and how to use the printers. The library becomes your second home during the final weeks of the semester when assignment deadlines are fast approaching. It is important to know where everything is because it becomes a very busy time. Finally, get to know everyone in your degree and make friends. They become your family at university and when it comes to participation in tutorial classes, it becomes easier when you know everyone well.

Find out more about AU919 Bachelor of Education (Honours) in Early Education and Care