Maria Clarke-McKay

My name is Maria Clarke-McKay. I’m a Head of Centre employed with East Ayrshire Council. I’m registered with the SSSC as manager of a day care of children service.

When I was 14 years old I knew I wanted to work with children. My Aunt asked me to pick up my cousin from nursery and when I arrived I loved the noise, the atmosphere and the way the children appeared so happy and busy.

When I left school I first studied for a Diploma in Business and Accounts but I really went to please my mum. She didn’t think early years was a good profession for me (because vacancies were under the ‘Mother’s Help’ section in the paper!) When she saw how much learning and study was involved she changed her mind, especially when I went to university.

In the past the main qualification was awarded by the Scottish Nursery Nurse Examination Board (SNNEB). It was full time for two years and I was appointed to a temporary position the day after I qualified. It was frightening being a student one day and a staff member the next!

Current pathways like SVQs and Modern Apprenticeships are great because you can gain confidence in the workplace and earn a wage while you study.

Over time I progressed from practitioner to manager and now I hold a degree in Childhood Practice. You can study this and still be in full or part time employment and many employers will help with the cost.

I enjoyed my time at university, even the assignments! Working with children and families is fun, intense and a learning opportunity for everyone. Everyone can share their skills, including children and their families who bring a wealth of knowledge with them.

As the Head I am not a keyworker, however I’m constantly at the door greeting families and in the playroom working with all children. I ensure we monitor and improve our performance, and I provide training to the team. Our centre is a community hub so parents and the community come in to share skills, have fun and take part in workshops.

I enjoy all aspects of my job. It’s a fantastic feeling to walk in and have all these lovely smiling faces running towards me for a hug, and I get paid for the privilege!

There can be a lot of paperwork however with experience in practice this can be streamlined.

To do this job well you must be flexible, nurturing, non-judgemental and inclusive.

You also need to be a good communicator and solution focused.

Most importantly, for me, is to be a dedicated learner and up to date in your practice. Children must be able to progress in their learning and so do we!

Profile image of Maria. She is at a careers event.

Current pathways like SVQs and Modern Apprenticeships are great because you can gain confidence in the workplace and earn a wage while you study.

Maria Clarke-McKay Head of Centre employed with East Ayrshire Council