Beth, a second year BSc (Hons) Social Work student, talks about her experiences on the course so far.
Why do you want to become a social worker?
My mum was a social worker, so I grew up with quite a clear understanding of the role. In later years she worked for a foster care agency and I was quite involved in the social committee, organising parties for the foster carers, their families and the looked after children in their care, and I absolutely loved my interactions with them. I also realised that in the job role I was doing, my favourite element was dealing with social services and attending child protection case conferences and working alongside the social workers - it gave me the push I needed to apply for the course and become a social worker myself.
How are you managing the course with your other commitments?
I have my hands full at home with two children! I was worried about balancing studying with my home responsibilities, but I've actually found that it's forced me to manage my time far better than I might have otherwise! I'm taught over two full days, which definitely makes juggling childcare far easier, and knowing that teaching structure when I applied probably would have made me far less anxious about how I was going to manage! Being organised is key, and I have found the teaching staff really understanding and flexible when my home and university commitments have clashed.
What has the biggest learning experience so far?
The group learning assignments - there have been several opportunities to work together in smaller groups towards a project or presentation. The skills you learn in negotiating group politics are probably the best preparation for a social work career that we get! I have definitely learned a lot about myself and my own learning style and personality as well as the theories of social work.
Tell us about the placements
I'm just about to go out on my first social work placement, which is a short observational opportunity to assess our fitness to proceed. I'm going to be working with adults with physical and learning disabilities, and I'm really looking forward to it. The process by which placements are assigned is very thorough - they take account of your previous personal and professional experiences and try to offer you the opportunity to work in a field you've had less grounding in.
How are you prepared for the profession you want to join?
The social work tutors are all fantastic and always on hand if you need a quick chat about something. We're all also assigned a Personal Tutor from the course, who is there for more in-depth help and support, whether that's related to the course or something else going on in our lives. My cohort is brilliant - we're all really supportive of one another and we've formed a great bond. In terms of preparing us for the profession - the tutors are great at relating everything to the real world of social work. We're helped to understand how everything we are learning will apply in the field, which gives it meaning and substance. Their own history and experience in social work, and their willingness to share that with us, is absolutely invaluable.
There's fantastic academic support from the University, particularly for those returning to education as mature students. I was worried about returning to academia after so long in the workplace, but I've found that I've actually really enjoyed the challenge of the written assignments. You can book 1:1 sessions to help you with essay structuring or Harvard referencing, you can go to lunchtime study skills sessions, and there's a wealth of support sheets on offer to help you do your best. Lectures are not classes where you're expected to sit in silence - there's so much debate and encouragement to share your own experiences and ideas, they're really dynamic and interesting, and often really funny!
Final words of advice to people considering the social work course?
Just apply! Starting my social work degree has been one the best decisions I've ever made. I've had fantastic guidance and support from staff and have made some brilliant friends on my course - I've also met some fantastic service users who work alongside the University and who have really opened my eyes to the issues they have faced. I can't wait to see what the rest of the course will bring.