Natalie Kerslake, Educations Studies, MA Education

What are you doing now?

I am currently working at Samuel Barlow Primary School in Nottinghamshire, as a Teaching Assistant, where I support individuals and groups of children in their learning across the curriculum. I have worked in years 3, 4 and 5, as well as covering in Foundation and Key Stage 1 where required. 

Since starting at Samuel Barlow in April 2014, I have been responsible for English as an additional language (EAL) provision across the school, utilising my knowledge from the EAL module I studied as part of the MA Education. This involved me supporting both children and staff to enhance provision across the school. Recently, I have been responsible for Maths interventions across years 3-5, using my MA Education research on dyscalculia to support children with mathematical difficulties.

In January 2016, I graduated with my MA Education from the University of Derby, with specialism in Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND). My dissertation looked at how teachers and teaching assistants can effectively support children with dyscalculia in one primary school. My study found that more awareness and training needs to be provided for teachers and teaching assistants, to aid them in supporting children with dyscalculia. This includes knowledge of what dyscalculia is and what strategies can be used to support children effectively. Since graduating, I have had a summary of my work published by Dynamo Maths in their newsletters to special educational needs co-ordinators (SENCos) and an interview conducted with the Dyscalculia Blog.

In October 2016 I was invited to Derby by Rosemary Shepherd to assist in a lecture looking at the role of the Teaching Assistant and Support Staff, for the final year Education Studies Special Educational Needs and Disabilities pathway. This enabled me to talk with the students about my day-to-day role as a Teaching Assistant, alongside looking at research into the deployment and impact of teaching assistants in the classroom.  

What were the main reasons you took the course?

Since an early age I knew I wanted to work with children and having done several work experience placements, it confirmed that I wanted to study education in greater depth at degree level, in particular building on my studies around educational psychology during my Psychology A-level.  

Why did you choose to study the course at the University of Derby?

I chose the course at Derby because I felt at home as soon as I visited the University.  The campus is smaller than other universities I visited and this, along with the city of Derby, suited me, as I wanted to study at a university close to home.  

What impact has studying this course at Derby had on your career?

It has equipped me to use my knowledge and skills in my day-to-day job role in school. The course also enabled me to gain my first teaching assistant role, just weeks after finishing the course.  

How did the lecturers inspire you?

I found the lecturers were very supportive in all aspects of my studies on the course.  The lecturers always made themselves available for me when I needed advice and support and this got me through some difficult times.     

How do you feel the University has helped you in your career so far?

I feel that the University has helped me a lot in my career so far in many ways. In addition to completing my Education Studies degree in 2011, I also completed my Masters in Education at the University, specialising in Special Educational Needs and Disabilities, graduating in January 2016.

I am also currently involved in the Professional Development Network (PDN) meetings for Special Educational Needs and Inclusion, along with attending several SEND conferences at the University. After the session I attended on dyslexia last year, I was asked to conduct some training on this area back to my colleagues in school. I feel that the involvement in these events has enabled me to enhance my knowledge around all aspects of SEND to then take back into school with me.    

Jennifer Marshall has also been on hand with advice and support during my time as EAL leader, which has been vital in enhancing provision in this area within school.    

What are your future plans?

I hope to progress onto HLTA (Higher Level Teaching Assistant) status, covering whole classes where required and possibly completing a Doctorate in the future. 

I am also hoping to use the findings from my MA Education research on dyscalculia in the primary school, to work with teachers and teaching assistants to enhance their understanding around supporting students with dyscalculia in schools, as it is not as well-known as other specific learning difficulties, such as dyslexia. 

What would you say to anyone thinking of coming to study this course at the University of Derby?

Do it! I had an amazing time at Derby and really loved studying this course at the University of Derby. The lecturers are really supportive, by always being there when needed, which enabled me to perform to the best of my abilities. 

Who are you still in touch with from the University of Derby?

I am still in touch with a few lecturers from the University, including Rosemary Shepherd, Jennifer Marshall and Dr Debs Robinson.