NUI Galway Early Childhood Student Wins OMEP Student of the Year Award 2019

Dr. Sheila Garrity and Fionnuala O’Malley at the Adult Learning conferring ceremony in NUI Galway on Saturday 9th November.
Nov 21 2019 Posted: 15:28 GMT

Recently conferred NUI Galway graduate Fionnuala O’Malley, was awarded the OMEP Student of the Year Award 2019 for her paper: Promoting Inclusion in Early Years Care and Education. The winning paper was submitted as part of her final year studies in the part-time BA in Early Childhood Studies and Practice. The award, bestowed on students by OMEP-Ireland, includes a trophy, a cash prize and the publication of the winning paper in the next edition of An Leanbh Óg.

OMEP: the World Organisation for Early Years Education (or Organisation Mondiale pour l'Educational Prescolaire) is an international non-governmental, non-profit organisation with standing at the United Nations and UNESCO. OMEP is made up of a worldwide network of locally based chapters, including OMEP-Ireland who host the ‘Student of the Year’ award, an annual Early Childhood conference and publish the peer-reviewed academic journal An Leanbh Óg. The ‘Student of the Year Award’ is an open competition for students undertaking third level studies in the area of Early Childhood Education and Care throughout the Republic of Ireland.

Fionnuala O’Malley, from Enfield, Co. Meath, said: “The module and the essay motivated me to reflect upon and interrogate not just my own values and experiences around equality and inclusion but also really brought home the critical role the early year’s practitioner can play in preventing prejudice and promoting inclusion.”

The winning paper focused on ‘The role of Early Years Practitioners in challenging prejudice and providing inclusive early education to young children’. The paper also critically analysedrelevant theories, explored best practice models, situating the discussion within the current Irish Early Childhood Education and Care context.

Speaking about the paper, module tutor Lynda Smyth said: “Fionnuala developed an excellent, insightful critique throughout the paper, particularly in relation to the role of the adult in ECEC practice. Promoting an inclusive environment in our early childhood settings is about the key adults having the knowledge, values and skills to ensure each child develops a sense of belonging, which enhances their wellbeing and identity. This is the foundation for everything else that happens in these important settings.”

Dr Sheila Garrity, Academic Coordinator of the BA and MA in Early Childhood Studies and Practice at NUI Galway, said: “Throughout the four years of our degree Fionnuala stood out as a committed student, with a passion for exploring the factors that come together to provide for rich early learning experiences for young children. The students who undertake our degrees are in the existing workforce; they are combining study with employment, maximising that theory-practice connection; however, they are also balancing many demands in their busy lives. For a student of this blended learning part-time degree to achieve this accolade speaks of course to the student’s own capacities, but is also a reflection of the quality of the team we have here in the Centre for Adult Learning and Professional Development, including all of our committed tutors.”

The BA in Early Childhood Studies and Practice was launched in 2010 and is offered through CALPD in collaboration with the School of Political Science & Sociology and the UNESCO Child & Family Research Centre. Offered on a part-time, outreach basis, the course was designed to support the existing Early Childhood workforce, for those wishing to upskill to a degree, while engaged in employment in the field. Students are able to benefit from their own workplace as a placement setting creating a more achievable and feasible model for student-practitioners.

Information on the BA in Early Childhood Studies & Practice is available at: or you can contact the Centre on 091-492080 or email Information on the OMEP Student of the Year Award is available at:


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