Profile picture of Victoria Smith.

Director of Operations, York Childcare

My MA really opened my eyes to the wider issues we face in the sector such as diversity, our understanding of the sociological impacts on young children and the varying range of pedagogy and approaches.

An early passion for teaching

For as long as I can remember, I have wanted to work in early years. Seeing and supporting children grow through their foundation years filled me with such pride and amazement. As a bright eyed and eager 16-year-old I attended Keighley College to study the BTEC National Diploma in Early Years (Nursery Nursing), much to my parents dismay who wanted me to stay on at sixth form and do my A levels!

Victoria Smith rep image.

Overcoming challenges

It was not an easy two years as I battled personal health issues and also those of my young brother Sam who had major heart surgery. However, I achieved my qualification and set off to work in the early years sector full-time. Over the next six years, I soaked up as much experience as I could, including working in a Montessori setting (creating an at-home and comforting classroom environment) and in Austria during the winter ski season. In 2008 I decided I needed a break from the sector while I started a family and went off to work in finance. I remained here for some years working in mortgage arrears and management.

Launching a day nursery

In late 2012 the real adventure started as my then-mother-in-law and I explored the possibilities of establishing our own day nursery. With the financial support of my family, my mother-in-law's business experience, and my sector knowledge we achieved this in early 2013. Co-owning a day nursery was not easy and we faced many battles including the sudden loss of my step-dad, Bob in September 2014.

However, my passion for the early years was re-ignited and I decided to strengthen my knowledge and make Bob proud by undertaking my Foundation degree. I started this with the Open University in October 2014 however, I soon realised that I needed the teaching contact time and transferred my course. I went on to gain a PGCE and taught part-time at Craven College.

Victoria Smith campus.

Covid and my brother’s legacy

Just two months into my new full-time programme lead role at Craven College, Covid-19 turned the world upside down. I was now teaching to a black computer screen full of initials and painstaking silences! It was challenging but I continued to enjoy teaching the next generation of early years educators.

Just as we thought Covid was calming down, I chose to sign up for my Masters Degree in Childhood and Education at Leeds Trinity University. I selected to do it full-time with the support of my employer while still co-owning the day nursery as it was one evening a week and fitted around my busy life.

Sadly, halfway through my studies, in February 2021 we suddenly lost my brother Sam at just 23 years old. It was in his legacy that I pushed through and, following a short extension of my studies, I achieved my MA in the summer of 2022 with a Merit.

Realising wider issues in the sector

My MA really opened my eyes to the wider issues we face in the sector such as diversity, our understanding of the sociological impacts on young children and the varying range of pedagogy and approaches. My dissertation looked at the impact that the key person approach and theory has on children and their families, mainly the difference in this approach from the private, voluntary and independent sector to that of reception classes in maintained schools. Although I reached a conclusion, I do hope to review this further in the future as the early year's landscape continues to evolve. 

Victoria Smith flowers.

Another new challenge

Following a change in my personal circumstances I sold my share of the day nursery in 2022 and moved to teach at Kirklees College. However, I was now armed with the new skills and knowledge my MA had helped me gain so I looked to pursue a role that would enable to embed and expand on my experience with those already working in the early years sector and support my work-life balance.

In March 2023 I began a strenuous recruitment process at York Childcare to become their Director of Operations, a role I started at the start of April. I am looking forward to my new challenge and am positive that the skills and knowledge I have developed over my career will support my new team to navigate through the highs and lows that we will inevitably face. 

My advice to others

My one piece of advice to anyone who is thinking of undertaking any form of studying is to never underestimate your ability. Grab every opportunity you can with both hands and never ever give up. Life will always throw curveballs your way but don’t let them knock you over permanently, always get back up and keep a strong focus on your goals.