SCIE opinion – 05 November 2014

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Photograph of Shanti

Getting the most out of your social work college time

Shanti Boafor, MA Social Work, Kingston University

I recently got my social work degree results for my MA at Kingston University. Now I’m itching to join the workforce. But perhaps it’s a time for reflection and I hope that this article will encourage new students to get the most out of their college time. Trust me; it goes quickly. But I passed, with a commendation, so I’m delighted.

Before I started the course I wish I had read past social work student dissertations on various topics relevant to social work.  This would have prepared me well in advance when embarking on my independent study, to have a clearer idea on the research topic.

I hope to embark on a social work career within a children and families’ team, particularly specialising in working with children from single parent families and looked-after children.

The course

I got the best out of my time at Kingston. As a mature student, I was a mentor to some of those people who maybe haven’t been in the workplace at all so far in their lives. It was great to give advice on written work but I also helped with practical tips, for instance when someone was having challenges on their placement. I told them they aren’t the first and they won’t be the last to be faced with this situation. My main advice is for social workers to portray a calm and professional manner. This is where my experience of the workplace, as a teacher, is something I can draw on.

SCIE will be delighted to hear that the course included advice and support from users and carers. Participation like this is an increasing feature of many courses and SCIE has eight films on the topic. On my course, users and carers interviewed us and conducted role play so that we’re more prepared for dealing with a live situation when we start as social workers.

Another film from SCIE looks at the Assessed and Supported Year in Employment. As I’m about to start my first year, I hope to get a lot out of this scheme. 

Why social work

Several things motivated me to decide to become a social worker. My deep feelings of compassion for others was an attribute that was deeply rooted in my thoughts, feelings and attitudes since childhood. In 1999 I was raising my daughter as a single parent and I began to recognise how judgemental society can sometimes be towards those that they viewed as vulnerable.  I took great delight in setting up informal groups for young mothers, in which we advocated for each other; and we had regular discussions on new policies about issues which were relevant to us. At the same time, when I embarked on a social science course with the Open University.

About a year ago, I even wrote an article for Community Care’s website talking about why I changed careers from teaching to social work. I think it’s always worth remembering why we’ve come into the professional. You hear stories about how admin can take over your life; let’s see if that’s true. I don’t want to lose the passion for making a difference, however.

SCIE can help

SCIE asked me to write this article because I’d told them that I found their resources really helpful on the course. I have used Social Care Online and twitter feeds. For example, when conducting some research on the personalisation agenda I discovered a wealth of information on personal budgets, service user participation and adult social care, which informed my poster presentation themes and written assignment. I also engage regularly in  SCIE twitter debates and current research-evidenced topics such as the recent Helping Children and Young People in Care  NICE publication, which contains eight statements to improve the emotional and mental well-being of looked after children and young people in care

Shanti’s suggestions

The top tip I would give to students is to support each other through a peer support or buddy group, to discuss modules, assignments and current social work research. Social work is a profession that gets a lot of bad press and one of the ways to overcome this is for social workers to unite and be each other’s backbone; and I strongly believe that the sense of unity should begin as students. Secondly, I recommend that students build a good professional rapport with their lecturers, practice educators and other professionals, which they may come into contact with through their time as student social workers.


SCIE’s student social work resources

Shanti has been shortlisted for the social worker of the year awards