Connecting the dots – it is all part of the bigger picture

How time flies! 13 months ago I set out on this new adventure. I had heard of the teaching partnerships before and how they sought to support and improve the education for social workers, both as they enter into the profession and as they continue to progress through their career once qualified. I am passionate about social work and have over the years been fortunate to be surrounded by people who have supported and encouraged me to continue to learn and develop. I recognise the importance of this and of ensuring that the right opportunities are made available to social workers at all stages of their career.

Well before I did my degree in Social Work, my interest in people and society had already been peaked. After a few different jobs and courses, I finally found myself at Umea University in my country of origin, Sweden, where I completed my first degree and became a Social Worker. I’ve always liked a challenge and it was this that led me to move to England to find out what it was like to work in that country. A different language and loads of different cultures and ethnicities and walks of life was there to greet me as I step of the plane with my two suitcases.

My interest had been to work with adults with mental health problems but instead I’ve found myself working with children and families. It was a really exciting opportunity to join this Teaching Partnership last year. Looking back at what we have achieved, I must admit that I am proud of all that I and my colleagues have done! It has not been a straight forward process at times but thanks to enthusiastic and knowledge people within this partnership, we have managed to develop a really good knowledge base to inform the next stages of the many projects we have been involved with.

The main focus of my year has been on how to develop an Enhanced Placement Model in relation to student social workers and their practice learning experiences. I soon realised the vastness of this project as there was not a single element of it that did not connect with another project within this partnership. The factors that needed considering ranged from the workforce requirements and the recruitment process for prospective students, right through to the academic curriculum for the students and the CPD needs for the qualified social workers and staff who were going to be supporting these students. It was a truly interesting project with so many different parts and perspectives to consider.

The final report and recommendations were shared with the Strategic Committee ready to be taken forwards to implementation stage as the Teaching Partnership moves on to the next phase. Although I will be sad not to have an active involvement in that phase, I am pleased with the changes that I have already seen happening out amongst the partners during the year I have been working with them.

The role as a Consultant within this Teaching Partnership has given me opportunity to develop many new and existing skills. Not only have I and my colleagues had the opportunity to develop as project co-ordinators, but we have also been delivering training to experienced staff, workshops and lectures to BA and MA students, and supporting others in various ways with their learning. It has also given me and my colleagues the opportunity to gain a more national perspective of social work. It has been a privilege to work alongside so many different and varied organisations, being able to see the similarities and differences between them. Seeing how much of the experience of social workers within their teams is influenced by not only the local context but also the national agenda.

All of these experiences, skills and knowledge will be immensely useful in whatever my next role will be as I return to social work practice. It will prompt me to think bigger when analysing situations, being mindful how all is interconnected. Hopefully I will also be able to maintain some of the connections I have made with the Universities so that I can continue to be involved in their academic delivery and perhaps even assist with delivering training within the organisation that I return to.

As I move on to my next adventure, I hope that others will feel encouraged and remember to continue to actively explore their individual pathways! It is so important that we find ways to keep our passion for what we do, or rekindle it when necessary. Making sure we look after ourselves so we can carry on with our fantastic efforts to help others!

Johanna Persson - Consultant Academic Social Worker