Professor Sally Pearse

Tell us about your contribution that has been recognised through the professorship.Prof. Sally Pearse

My outstanding contribution that has been recognised through the professorship is for External and Professional Engagement (E&PE) in the field of early childhood education and care and for significant contribution to Teaching and Learning (T&L).

Some of the highlights of my career that have led to this recognition and that I am particularly proud of are achieving the first ‘Outstanding’ grade in the country for Early Years Initial Teacher Training in 2017 and the opening of the Early Years Community Research Centre in Shirecliffe in 2021. The latter feels like the culmination of my work with the early years sector over the last twenty years as it is the result of a strong and unique partnership that brings together a range of organisations and individuals who are passionate about the transformative nature of effective early years services. This collaboration with Sheffield City Council, Save the Children UK and the local school and community has led to a team from Hallam delivering crucial early years education and care for families in an area of socio-economic challenge whilst at the same time providing the opportunity for students to address real life challenges and for researchers to engage with the local community.

What does it mean personally to you to be a professor at Sheffield Hallam? What do you value about it?

I never expected to be a professor and feel incredibly privileged to have achieved this recognition for doing what I passionately believe in and enjoy and could not have achieved without an incredible team around me. I will make full use of the title to promote the importance of all who work in the early years sector.

Tell us a bit about your career story so far.

I have had a varied career – from Civil Servant and trade union activist to teacher and community development worker. Prior to joining Hallam I was the director of a charity that ran a day nursery, women’s health and training project and a community café. For a number of years, I combined this role with teaching on early years courses at Hallam and hosting students on placement.

In 2015 I joined Hallam full-time and became Head of Area for Early Years before joining the South Yorkshire Futures team in 2017 as the strategic lead for early years. This role enabled me to use my sector experience and contacts in the region to develop and deliver a range of projects aimed at improving the early years outcomes of children in South Yorkshire. The projects have included the £1 million Early Outcome programme to support young children’s speech, language and communication in South Yorkshire and developing a regional vision for early years education and care and school readiness.

If you could go back in time and give yourself some career advice, what would it be?

I would have two pieces of advice to my younger self; never stay in a job that you hate and do not worry so much about work. Luckily for me the only job I have hated was my very first one after leaving university and since then I have tried to follow what interests me and what I believe in – I am still struggling with the second!

What’s next? Tell us about how you want to further develop your contribution.

I will use my professorial role to:

  • Support my colleagues to ensure excellence in our practice based early childhood courses.
  • Further develop and strengthen partnerships to deliver innovative and collaborative projects, regionally and nationally.
  • Strengthen research through funding bids and mentoring and developing colleagues.