How Corinna Laing's childhood shaped her career

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Kelly Corcoran - Digital Communications Officer
Monday 05 February 2024
Corinna Laing at graduation with scroll

This National Apprenticeship Week we are spotlighting Corinna Laing, Action for Children's Operational Director of Early Years and Childcare.

Corinna manages our Spring Nurseries and Oscars Childcare services.

But the work she does at Action for Children isn't her only achievement. Corinna was awarded a Senior Leaders Masters apprenticeship in Business Administration (MBA) and Chartered Manager status at the Chartered Management Institute.

To celebrate National Apprenticeship Week, we spoke to Corinna about her career at Action for Children and her decision to complete an apprenticeship.

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What drew you to a career in early years and education?

My career was hugely influenced by my own high Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACES). When I was 16, relationships within my family broke down. This lead to a placement by the local authority in a local Bed and Breakfast.

These experiences became a driving force behind my choice of profession.

I enrolled at James Watt College to study Early Years Education, and this was the first step in my journey.

Can you share your key career milestones with us?

A key milestone in my career unfolded shortly after moving to Exeter in Devon. This was where I discovered ‘my professional home’ with Action for Children.

The charity was opening one of its first nurseries, then known as The Cedars. It was part of a neighbourhood nursery project under the Sure Start initiative. It was here that marked the beginning of my leadership journey.

In its early days, The Cedars began operations with a small team of three people and some capital funding.

For the next 11 years, The Cedars became more than a workplace; it was a true home-from-home. My own children also found their early years experiences here alongside me.

Over the last 19 years, The Cedars has flourished. It's gone from strength to strength and is now part of the Spring group, becoming The Spring Cedars.

World Book Day at Cedars children's service

World Book Day at Cedars

What was your time at Cedars like?

It was an exciting and transformative era for Sure Start Exeter, where the nursery played an integral role. We worked closely with the two other children's centres, achieving remarkable results as a multiagency team.

Our collective efforts gained national attention, with the Prime Minister commending the achievements of Sure Start Exeter.

Being part of this dynamic environment, the growth of the Cedars, and contributing to the success of Sure Start Exeter were undeniably highlights in my career. And the collaborative spirit made it a memorable and rewarding experience.

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Who or what has been your biggest support?

Definitely the invaluable guidance and support of an exceptional manager, Christine Cottle. Christine was a Children Services Manager who retired from Action for Children this year.

Christine was an inspiration and played a huge role in shaping my career. But she helped me far beyond the workplace too, and offered support on both personal and professional fronts.

With Christine's encouragement, I decided to embark on university education.

I successfully completed a Foundation Degree, followed by a BA Honours degree in Education. Action for Children’s support and their belief in my potential paved the way for my academic pursuits.

Christine and Cial cutting cake

Christine and Corinna's son Cial cutting cake

How did your most recent academic achievement come about?

In 2019, I embarked on an Masters in Education. Unfortunately, the course was interrupted by the pandemic. Instead, I went on to successfully complete a Masters in Business Administration (MBA).

This change improved my resilience. And alongside my manager (Director of Early Years), Jo French, it helped me navigate two businesses through a worldwide pandemic.

The MBA gave me a broader perspective on leadership and management, and supported my responsibilities at Spring.

I am so grateful to my manager Jo and her support, guidance, and feedback through the Apprenticeship programme.

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Do you have any new aspirations?

I am currently attending the Centre for Research in Early Childhood (CREC) and rejoined year two of the Masters in Education. I hope that CREC will supervise me to complete a PhD in 2025

By finding my place at Action for Children, I have not only gone beyond my own challenges, but helped make a difference in the lives of others.

I feel that my personal journey adds a unique perspective to my work, allowing me to connect empathetically with the experiences of the children and families I support.

I hope by sharing this glimpse of my journey it reminds people of the impact and influence they can have on the lives of others through education, resilience, and a commitment to positive change

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