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From a career in mental health services to childcare, Karen progressed her childcare career with NEC Saturday, 18 September 2021

Having worked in adult mental health services, Karen wanted to go in a new direction. She now works in childcare and her employer supported her online learning journey with NEC. Here is her story.

I previously worked in adult mental health services, however, I thought that I needed a career change. After contemplating on this idea I decided that I would like to work with children and young people. I was fortunate in being accepted for a mentoring vacancy and really enjoyed this line of work. I then went on to work in nearly all of the services within my organisation, one of which was play work. During my yearly appraisal my wonderful manager asked if I would like to study with NEC towards an online play work qualification. At first I was somewhat apprehensive as I did not want to be tied to my laptop and have deadlines to meet; as I was working full-time and also a very active nan. However, I jumped at the opportunity when I knew that I would have flexibility, could work at my own pace and not have to sit any exams.

Studying online with NEC was far different from what I ever imagined as the material that I had access to opened up a whole new world and also gave me a deeper understanding of children and young people’s mental health and wellbeing. My research also identified that nowadays SEND (Special education needs and disability) children and young people have had so many barriers removed from when I was a child growing up in the 1970’s. Although my disability has never held me back, I understand that this is not the case for everyone. I was born with Poland Syndrome which is a physical disability, so I know of some of the difficulties that children and young people may have to endure. I was able to encompass my previous experiences, knowledge and qualifications regarding disabilities, mental health and emotional wellbeing; and devised a Mindfulness Programme which fits in with the Social, Emotional and Learning (SEL) Framework. I was also able to advocate for disabled adults who are seeking employment, by highlighting to my organisation the importance of  exploring people’s strengths in the recruitment process; and also joining the Disability Competent Scheme. 

With my new qualification I am hoping for changes to be made in my organisation’s Positive Behaviour Management Policy. I will be leading by example and will also be practising more mindfulness in all of the services that I work in – Mentoring, Positive Behaviour Support (PBS), Early Years, Natural Play, Over Nights and After School Club; as I have found Mindfulness to have so many beneficial effects on children and young people’s emotional wellbeing, mental health, their ability to learn, to socialise and on their physical health. 

The advice that I can give to anyone who is looking for an online provider is to look no further than NEC. You will have the freedom to study from home or at work, and have their full support, if and when you need it. 

In a world where you can be anything, be mindful and more positive. 


NEC’s Level 3 Diploma in Playwork is an online course that enables our students to use their initiative to create effective play environments for children aged 4 to 16, helping them to progress to more senior and specialist roles. The course covers a range of high level skills including learning how to develop, evaluate and promote a service and how to approach family liaison, managing budgets or recruitment. 

Students following our Level 3 Diploma in Playwork are supported by expert tutors, including Kate Wake who has recently been nominated for the Nursery World Award which celebrates and shines a light on dedicated professionals in early years education and childcare. We are exceptionally proud of Kate’s nomination which reflects the high standard and commitment of NEC’s tutors.

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