Everyday is a school day!
I came to Social Work as a mature students and undertook my Social Work degree through keele University. I qualified in 2008 and my final placement was within Cheshire East Children and Families team. Following qualification I was successful in gaining employment in the same team and I have been employed by Cheshire East Council for the last 9 years. I am a Practice Educator and have supported 5 students to undertake their Practice Learning Opportunities.
In February 2017 I began my 14 months secondment to the North West Midlands Social Work Teaching Partnership, during which I have been based within both Keele University and Staffordshire University. This has given me the opportunity to work alongside social work academics, who have been eager to share their knowledge and supported and welcomed my involvement in all aspects of the social work programme. This included undertaking practitioner led workshops, which were extremely daunting; however it has been a pleasure to work with the students undertaking the social work programmes, their eagerness to learn, their thirst for knowledge and their engagement in these sessions has helped to rekindle my own passion for social work practice. The aims of these sessions were to support to students to link the theoretical concepts taught within university, to examples of current social work practice. The feedback from students within the sessions has been very positive and as a practitioner I found these sessions helped me to reflect on my own practice experience.
Within the Teaching Partnership there are 10 organisations including social work employers and educators, spanning both adult and children’s services. During the secondment I have had the opportunity to meet with practitioners from each of the organisations, some who attended and contributed to the insight sessions and provided their views and experiences of their social work education, and other who attended one of the Work Based Supervisor training sessions, which have been facilitated through the Teaching Partnership. I would like to take this opportunity to say a huge thank you to all of those practitioners who took time out of their busy schedules to attend these sessions.
Within the Teaching Partnership the CaSW’s have completed focused projects. I have led two such projects during my secondment. The first was linked to improving the recruitment and retention of qualified social workers, and their experiences of post qualifying education. The aim was to evaluate the current Continuous Professional Development (CPD) opportunities available to Social Workers. This project was completed in two phases and was informed by the practitioner insight which was gathered from social worker across the Teaching Partnership and through a review of current research and policy documents. The outcome of phase one, of this project identified potential knowledge gaps and these findings were used to develop a series of Masterclasses, which have been implemented by another of the CaSW, Jamie Brockie. Within the second phase of this project, I used the findings from phase one to create a career pathway framework. During the insight sessions, practitioners told us that they wanted to have access to meaningful progression opportunities, which were more than just management. Therefore the framework created reflected the findings and outlined CPD opportunities for practitioners wishing to progress into specialist areas of practice or leadership, and could be implemented across both adult and children’s services.
The second project was linked to improving Practice Learning Opportunities for students and Practice Educators. Access to high quality PLO’s within the Social Work programme are vital in preparing students for practice. This project was informed by gathering the views of Practice Educators across the Teaching Partnership and current findings from research, to identify what the potential barriers were within organisations and the impact of these. It also identified opportunities to enhance the experiences of current practice educators, and those interested in becoming or retuning to practice education.
As my secondment comes to an end and I return to frontline practice, I can reflect on what a valuable experience it has been to be part of the North West Midlands Social Work Teaching Partnership. The opportunities I have had and the knowledge I have gained will inform and influence not only my own practice, but will also be used to support the learning and development of others within my own organisation. It is also hoped that the projects which I have been part of within the Teaching Partnership will help to support students and practitioners within the wider social work profession.
Jenny Brown - Consultant Academic Social Worker