From School Leaver to SEND Practitioner


We spoke to Symone Lishman, a level 3 apprentice from Busy Bees Ashton House who started her journey with us as a school leaver in 2017, about her apprenticeship journey so far, and her aspirations for the future.

What Nursery do you work at?

Busy Bees Ashton House, I’ve worked there since I was 16 and I’m now 21 so I’ve been there a while! I started doing my apprenticeship level 2, I’ve qualified and had a baby, and now I’ve moved on to my level 3, so I’ve been very busy!

What Made you want to work in childcare?

Before I finished school, I used to coach younger children at a trampolining club, and even coached young children with autism, so I always knew I was good with children and enjoyed working with them and watching them develop and grow. I just wanted to be the person who helped them with activities all the time, because when you’ve helped a child learn something, and their parents are really thankful, it’s a great feeling.

How did you feel when you first started your apprenticeship at Busy Bees?

At first, I was really nervous, because when I first started there was no one my age, I was the youngest person there, so I was a little overwhelmed, but every staff member at the nursery made me feel so welcome. Nobody left me out, everyone was there to help, and my manager was fantastic always checking on me to make sure I was alright, not just in the nursery but with my coursework as well.

You’re constantly learning different things to help you become a more skilled practitioner, I used to think working with babies was difficult as there was so much to learn but thanks to my Room Managers and their support, I now love working with babies and feel so comfortable whilst at work!

How do you balance your coursework alongside your full-time job?

It’s important you stick to the plans you discuss with your development coach, so I’d always make sure I’d get my work done before the dates I’d agreed to stay on top of things. My room manager Laura told me that she didn’t do any of her coursework on a weekend because working a whole week and then doing your coursework on a weekend would make it seem like you had no time for yourself! I worked an hour every evening on my coursework to ensure I got it all done. It looks like there’s a lot of coursework, but once you break it down it’s manageable!

What made you want to take an apprenticeship vs going to college?

I have dyslexia, dyscalculia, and information processing issues, so I struggled in school. I did health and social care in school which I didn’t enjoy. I am a practical person, and even though I still have coursework now, I find the practical element of my day helps me with my coursework, as I’m just applying what I’ve learned!

How has the apprenticeship helped your career?

As I mentioned before, when I started my apprenticeship, I was so shy, and even though I’d worked with children before doing the trampolining, I was only teaching them 1 thing, whereas now, their learning and development is in my hands. It’s given me a chance to try new things and now I want to take courses that involve SEND and Autism, to work more with children that have those learning difficulties, as that’s where I started. I've also took some of the Autism and SEND courses on the VLA too, which was really helpful to keep up with my learning during COVID.

What has been your favourite part of your apprenticeship?

My favourite part of my apprenticeship is when you watch a child come in as a 2-year-old and you get to watch them grow. You see how all of your learning has applied to their lives, and the parents are so appreciative of the work you’ve put in to help their child grow and develop. It’s the best feeling ever!

Do you have any advice for school leavers who might be considering an apprenticeship in childcare?

Just go for it! When you get there you will be nervous, and it is a completely different environment to school, but as long as you do everything you can to make sure your coursework is in on time, and you're getting the right support you need, you’ll be in your element.

When I first joined, the thing that I really struggled with was thinking of what activities to do to engage with the children, so I painted with them for a week, and as I watched other people do activities with the children I ended up learning from them and having the confidence to create my own.

Everyone is there to help you learn and to gain your qualification, so never be afraid to ask people for help, as they’ll always help you! Our nursery colleagues will know you’ve just left school so they won’t be expecting you to be the best practitioner in the world, but they are there to help you become one.

What are your plans for the future after you’ve finished your level 3?

Hopefully, I’ll be finishing my level 3 in December, so after that instead of going down the Room Manager route, I’d love to progress my work in SEN, specifically with children who have autism or who are deaf. I’d love to learn British Sign Language (BSL) so I can communicate with children who I’d usually not be able to talk to and become a SENCO or something similar.

If you are feeling inspired by Symone's career journey, you can start your career in childcare by applying for our level 2 nursery vacancies here.