Supporting our local health and social care students in Bradford via work placements

Kerry Bennett, Integration and Change Manager, and Student Coordinator at Better Start Bradford talks to two recent student placements, Irsa and Zahra, aged 19, who are both at Bradford University doing nursing degrees.

Kerry Bennett

A key element of Better Start Bradford’s Workforce Development Strategy is ‘Growing our own workforce’.

We have adopted a place-based model that focuses on attracting, developing and supporting people from the local community to see working with children in the early years as a fulfilling and impactful career choice.

To do this we:

  • Raise awareness and interest of the future workforce, enabling career entry and progression.
  • Work with our partners in schools, further education and higher education to create a diverse and stable future workforce that has a deep understanding of the local environment and the community they will serve.
  • Promote a better understanding of early childhood development and the importance of prevention with people who will make up the future workforce.

Working with students and their institutions is an integral part of the strategy, offering placements and visiting lectures on health and care courses. The experience of our students below illustrates the value of these placements

Two recent student placements were Irsa and Zahra, aged 19, who are both at Bradford University doing nursing degrees.

They had not actually met until they were placed at Better Start Bradford for a nine-week student placement in January 2022.

Having made a firm friendship and learning so much in their placement, they are now looking forward to continuing their nursing journey together.

Before they returned to Bradford University, I had a chance to sit down with Irsa and Zahra and find out what skills, learning and early years knowledge they will be taking away from their placement.

Had you heard of Better Start Bradford before your placement?

Irsa: I hadn’t heard of Better Start Bradford before my placement, but when I looked at the website and I saw everything that you do, I was really looking forward to it. I was hoping to increase my confidence and organisation skills.

Zahra: I originally thought that I was going to be working in a nursery until I looked at your website, so I was amazed by all the projects that you have. I was looking forward to gaining stronger communication skills and confidence.

Tell me about some of the activities that you have done as part of your placement?

Irsa: We have met most of the staff at Better Start Bradford and team meetings were a bit daunting to begin with. I’ve visited family homes with Health Visitors and the Talking Together project. I witnessed how the Talking Together team work with the family in their own home and demonstrate techniques to parents and carers to help with their 2-year-olds language development.

Zahra: We also went along to baby and toddler play sessions at SHINE; outdoor play activities run by the Better Place project; and a hypnobirthing session with specialist midwife Alison Brown.

What did you enjoy the most about your placement?

Zahra: I really enjoyed hypnobirthing – I knew nothing about it before. I learnt so much from Alison, who delivers the sessions. She talked about what the mothers need to know about home birthing, breathing techniques throughout labour, and the birth. I did not know all this stuff she was telling me as I have never experienced a birth. I told all my family and pregnant friends about it as I live in the Better Start Bradford area.

Irsa: I loved hypnobirthing too and all the things that Alison told us about the midwifery side of things, in particular, caesarean sections – I didn’t realise you could only have up to three caesarean sections. I also enjoyed visiting families with the Health Visitors. As Kerry used to be a Health Visitor, I felt I could just ask anything and I would get the answers to all my questions.

Has your placement influenced the direction of your nursing?

Irsa: We are both on completely different pathways, but I feel that with paediatric nursing, I have definitely chosen the right path.

Zahra: Before I started with Better Start Bradford, I wanted to go into hospital wards – but I think I would like to work in the community and then move into ward work.

What is the thing that you think you will remember most?

Both: The staff have been wonderful, and we have loved being around small children. The children got so attached to us at the SHINE project and they all wanted to hug us.

We have had to learn to be very organised to follow our timetable and allow plenty of time for travel. We have met so many different people and learned different things from those people. We felt really welcomed and feel like we’ve been working here forever – now we don’t want to leave!

Commenting on the student placements, Kerry said:

It’s so rewarding to hear how much Irsa and Zahra enjoyed their placement with the team and to hear such lovely comments from them about the Better Start Bradford programme.

Our whole team is committed to building the skills and knowledge of the future early years’ workforce through supporting our local health and social care students via work placements, through our Learning Together events and our virtual live learning sessions.

We take a lot of care and time to ensure that the weeks they spend with us cover a diverse range of early years topics, as we are keen to develop and influence the future workforce, particularly around the importance of prevention and early intervention.

Both Irsa and Zahra worked incredibly hard during their placement and I wish them both every success in their chosen careers and hope they continue to share the learning and knowledge they gained.

Feedback from our work placement students is passed on to the Course Tutors who are now in discussion with us about introducing greater numbers of students to our Programme through our live learning sessions. We are also supporting student placements in the wider Better Start Bradford programme with our projects.

We have been consulted regarding the content of the new midwifery curriculum and are working closely with the Director of Practice Education and Engagement, in looking at how critically important the first 1001 days are and also where prevention fits into all health and social care courses.

As we near the end of the programme we expect to see the lessons learned from our student placements to be embedded into the way the courses are designed.

About A Better Start

A Better Start is the ten-year (2015-2025), £215 million programme set-up by The National Lottery Community Fund, the largest funder of community activity in the UK.

Five A Better Start partnerships based in Blackpool, Bradford, Lambeth, Nottingham, and Southend are supporting families to give their babies and very young children the best possible start in life. Working with local parents, the A Better Start partnerships are developing and testing ways to improve their children’s diet and nutrition, social and emotional development, and speech, language, and communication.

The work of the programme is grounded in scientific evidence and research. A Better Start is place-based and enabling systems change. It aims to improve the way that organisations work together and with families to shift attitudes and spending towards preventing problems that can start in early life. A Better Start is one of five major programmes set up by The National Lottery Community Fund to test and learn from new approaches to designing services which aim to make people’s lives healthier and happier.

The National Children’s Bureau is designing and delivering an ambitious programme of shared learning and development support for A Better Start, working within, across and beyond the five partnership areas. The programme is funded by The National Lottery Community Fund using funds raised by National Lottery players.

Our aim is to amplify the impact of A Better Start by:

  • Embedding a culture of learning within and between the partnerships.
  • Harnessing the best available evidence about what works in improving outcomes for children.
  • Sharing the partnerships’ experiences in creating innovative services far and wide, so that others working in early childhood development or place-based systems change can benefit.

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