Mum of two juggles work and study

Lisa Fitches, 35, juggled being a mum of two and working part-time in a pre-school while studying for an MA in Early Years in Education.

A photo of the graduand Lisa Fitches“It was tricky balancing work and my Master’s degree,” says Lisa, who is graduating this week, “but my managers were very flexible.

“With my children we had a really good routine of feeding, washing and then bed and after that I would get my university work done. My eight-year-old daughter, Lily, said to me last year: ‘Mum, it’s eight o’clock now; it’s time for me to go to bed and for you to get your college books out’.”

Lisa began the MA in the School of Education and Social Work in September 2015 after completing her BA at Croydon College. “I’d always worked in retail and when my son was two and a half I had to choose a pre-school for him. One of the early years managers at the school I picked said she had a job going and I worked my way up from there! After eight years working in the sector I decided I wanted to do a BA and then a Master’s degree.”

Lisa was attracted to the Sussex course because it was split into two separate parts. “You do your early years teaching qualification alongside the Masters - it’s the only course in the country which allows you to do this. So you do one year of intense studying instead of two.”

Lisa always hoped to become a lecturer; however, studying the course at Sussex has opened up lots of new doors for her. “Now I could become a primary teacher in an academy school, a social worker or even an Ofsted inspector,” she says. “Some postgraduate degrees are so specific – but this one opens up lots of different jobs and roles.”

For her dissertation, Lisa chose to look at the way children form identities and stereotypes. “I work in a pre-school in south-east London where there are children from lots of different backgrounds.

“Some parents would ask me why their child wasn’t writing their own name yet or counting to 20 at age three or four – even though all the guidance says they don’t need to be able to do this until they are in the first year of school. I wanted to understand what was behind this.

“It was a very interesting project to work on and taught me that your children’s identities are very much influenced by the exposure they get to their parents’ own stereotypes.”

Lisa says her “proudest moment” was when she sumbitted her dissertation. “When I started the course I had a moment when I thought I might have taken too much on. So when I handed in my dissertation I felt really proud – because I’m doing this for my children.

“Recently when my son, Sidney, 11, was just about to start secondary school, he got apprehensive and I told him we all have doubts sometimes - but if you push through you can really surprise yourself, just like I did!”