If I hadn’t had picked that degree and gone to South Essex College so many options wouldn’t have been available to me.
Hello, my name is Katie Anderson, I am 25, I studied a degree in Early Years Education at South Essex College and this is my story.
The College offered exactly the course that I wanted to do. I wasn’t a 100% sure that I wanted to be a teacher so I chose the subject that covered all areas of education and there were more job options at the end. It was the best thing that I have ever done, I know that it sounds really cheesy but if I hadn’t had picked that degree and gone to South Essex College so many options wouldn’t have been available to me.
It was really scary applying for uni and it was a big change because I was working full-time and just starting a career but I thought that I wasn’t heading in the right direction and I decided to just go for it and study this degree. It was scary but it was definitely worth it.
I started my degree expecting to become a primary school teacher. I knew that you had to have a degree to become one so I thought I would do what I want to do and I have always loved education right from when I was young, I did my work experience in a school and spent lots of time working in schools and volunteering. When I finished I thought about everything that I had experienced. I had worked on a farm and I had also worked at a forest school so I decided to start my own farm school which uses the ethos of learning outside, children directing lessons – very, very child-led and very practical. There are a lot of children that don’t necessarily learn in a classroom environment so I wanted to make sure that those children had the option to learn practically.
My dissertation focussed on outdoor learning and how children are losing touch with nature and the outdoors and I wanted to make a change. Children don’t know where their food comes from or how to be sustainable and I really wanted to promote that in schools and privately so that is what Muddy Boots Farm is all about. It is about learning, but learning in a fun and hands-on way. So that is where I am now.
Muddy Boots Farm is an educational small holding so it is a working farm. I sell meat, I sell eggs, I rescue animals so it’s pets and it’s produce. I also invite children aged five to 12, and they come and learn on the farm in a hands-on way. They help collect the eggs, they help muck out the pigs, they groom the pigs, they walk the goats. They put hay out for the sheep, they do everything. While they are doing that they are constantly learning about where their food comes from, how to look after animals, how to work as a group, how to work with different aged children. There is so much that they can pick up from here. It gives children a real confidence boost and makes them want to be outside.
When I left college at 18, I had my A levels and I thought I will do a degree because that is what everyone does and I just felt pressure to do it. I didn’t end up doing it at 18 because it would have been wrong for me and I would have ended up doing the wrong course. I grew up and I realised what I wanted to do. I realised that some people are totally ready at 18 to do a degree but am so glad that I waited because by the time I did it I was 100% committed. I knew exactly the course I wanted to do and where I wanted to do it.
I started my degree when I had a full-time job. It got to the point when I knew that the job wasn’t for me, every day I was waking up and I wasn’t enjoying it anymore. I didn’t live at home so there was pressure to pay the rent, so I knew that I had to earn money, but it is completely doable and I definitely don’t regret it one bit. If you want something badly, you make it work. You might have to make compromises, but it’s worth it. If you are thinking about it and are in a full-time job, just go for it.
When I was doing my degree I had to find a part-time job. I took a job in a café a few miles away from me. From there I moved out of the café into their office and I started managing their accounts and their social media. Now I am their business manager. When they had some land come up for rent, I approached them and asked them if I could run my forest school from there. They are completely behind me and are the best bosses that I have ever had. I rented my house on the farm when I was doing the degree and so many doors have opened since then because of them and I can’t thank them enough.
If I hadn’t left my job and done this degree at South Essex College, I would never had stumbled across this farm or even come to Burnham where Muddy Boots Farm is but I did and I’m lucky because I’ve got it all.