Samantha Cairney

BA (Hons) Primary Education with specialism in Early Years



What attracted you to study at the University of Stirling?

Having initially started my University career in Law and realising it wasn’t for me. I decided to find a course that would suit me professionally but also as an individual. Whilst searching for courses that seemed appropriate to me, I realised that the University of Stirling was the only Scottish course that allowed you to specialise and it’s the number one Faculty of Social Sciences in Scotland. I loved the idea of being specialised in a specific subject whilst still gaining my teaching degree. After visiting the campus, I fell in love with the peacefully scenic surrounds that was littered with wildlife.

What did you enjoy most about your time at University of Stirling?

During my time at Stirling, I felt like part of a community. The course was structured so you get to build close relationships with your education tutors but also mix with other students in different degrees when you were studying to deepen your knowledge on your specialism. As a result, I met and became friends with lots of different types of students from different degree backgrounds – something I feel I may not have had the opportunity to do otherwise.

Which aspects of the programme did you enjoy the most?

The primary education programme is very well structured to allow for the different types of learners who may enter the University. This meant that we had a range of different assignments such as oral presentations, essays, exams or group work, so it allowed me to work out my best mode of studying. I also loved the practical workshops that were built into our classes. This involved things such as actually going outside to learn about outdoor learning techniques or taking part in gymnastic lessons. The opportunity to complete these tasks as we expect children to, really allowed me to grasp the concept and content of what our tutors were explaining to us. Similarly, I found all my classes to be incredibly interactive and this allowed me to build close relationships with my tutors and peers. I felt very well supported in all areas and knew whom I could turn to when I needed advice or support.

Entering my placements, I felt very prepared and confident, thanks to the education department. I think I really enjoyed my placements much more as I had a solid foundation to start from and didn’t feel like I had been thrown in the deep end. Speaking to other primary education students not at Stirling, I realised how lucky I was to have had the support from the staff in Stirling as the stress of placements was minimised thanks to the structure of the course and how prepared it made me feel!

Do you think the degree has made you more employable, or better prepared for further study? If yes, what are the key skills?

After completing my probationary year, I was offered jobs in Scotland prior to moving to London, with head teachers explaining that they would prefer a teacher in their school which has a specialism as they are rare and highly sought after. Although I decided to move to London, I was thankful to have my specialism after being in such a competitive environment. I found that I could really identify with my degree and use my knowledge surrounding my specialism to explain my views and opinions. The Early Years specialism was always a topic that was pinpointed during interviews and I was confident in explaining why my specialism made me a more valuable teacher.

My degree also gave me an edge during my probationary year. The education programme really prepared you for new initiatives that were being introduced by the Government. As such, I was conscious that the 1+2 Language Initiative was being introduced in Scotland in the next year and primary teachers would be expected to teach two additional languages aside their mother tongue. Thanks to being so aware of this new initiative, I used my probationary year to undergo relevant Continued Professional Development surrounding new initiatives being introduced. This allowed me to support my probationary school’s development plan as Language co-ordinator and be fully prepared for the introduction of the initiative. If it was not for the encouragement of my tutors to be update with Governmental policy and the need to discuss these initiatives during class time, I may have perhaps not been as prepared as I find myself now.

What advice would you give a student considering studying at Stirling?

Visit the campus, meet other students, check out the sports facilities and talk to the education tutors. You’ll get a real feel for the University and it is sure to not disappoint you. I LOVED Stirling!

How would you summarise your time at Stirling?

I feel like I have been given the tools to help me develop into a professional young adult thanks to being pushed to challenge myself but also supported by the staff at Stirling. The staff equipped me with the skills, confidence and resilience to combat a magnitude of different scenarios that I may be faced with during teaching.

If you have now graduated, what are you doing now?

I am currently working in a school in London as a 2-form Year 2 primary teacher. My job requires multiple different roles including working alongside others to help develop co-ordinator roles.

Would you recommend this career/further study to others?

Absolutely! Teaching is such a satisfying career choice! It is incredible to help support young learners to develop socially, mentally, physically, emotionally and spiritually. Seeing your student’s confidence grow and enjoy learning is so gratifying. No two days are ever alike and children are so spontaneous…your day is full of fun and laughs. Of course this career can be stressful at times but it is also important to realise that you are positively influencing children in their learning, opinions and how they view the world. When you realise that you are influencing our future generation’s lives, it is hard to not feel grateful to have such a position.