I have worked with children and young people in different roles since I was a young person myself, and I find their stories and experiences to be inspiring and sometimes shocking in equal measure. Most recently, I have been teaching teenagers with learning disabilities in a special needs school. I fell out of love with teaching, but not with the interactions I had with the young people. I feel passionately about social justice and particularly ways to improve life chances for those with learning disabilities. I knew I wanted to leave teaching, I knew I wanted to further my own education and I knew I wanted to continue working within the ‘helping’ professions.
I applied for a variety of graduate schemes, although Frontline was top of the list for a number of reasons. Of course, if I was accepted on Frontline, it would mean I could continue working with children and remain in my local region. More importantly, the ethos of Frontline seemed to closely match my own and they support their fellows both in and outside social work to improve the lives of children and young people.
The application process was reassuringly rigorous. I would have been dubious about the whole scheme had it been too easy to be accepted! As it is, the application process assesses all aspects of what and who you need to be to succeed on Frontline. I see that more clearly having recently completed the Summer Institute.
I think other participants were more anxious about starting the Summer Institute than I was. This was simply because I was so worried about driving from East Lancashire to Coventry, having recently passed my test, that I didn’t even think about what was about to happen the following day. I put off driving for 17 years and being accepted on Frontline meant I needed to overcome some deep-rooted fears and get on with it.
The Summer Institute had its highs and lows, but the five weeks on the whole were fantastic. It was daunting being back in education and living in student halls for the first time in 16 years was a challenge. The learning was fast-paced and delivered by exceptionally experienced and knowledgeable practitioners and academics, who are obviously passionate about Frontline. The experts by experience – people who spoke, sang and performed about their experiences of some of the topics covered in the teaching – were highlights and there were mutual tears shed.
The mixture of participants made learning from each other a key experience. I had imagined we would all be of similar outlooks, but this could not be further from the truth, and the seminar groups concretely showed how the unit model works in practice.
I will be working in a unit in Wigan with three lovely people. Our experiences and education vary and we already seem to complement each other and have built relationships quickly, to enable us to challenge each other in a safe way. I am excited and nervous to be starting my placement in Wigan, but I know with the support of the unit, practice tutor, consultant social worker, academic team and friends from the Summer Institute, it will be the experience of a lifetime, which will set me on the road to be an outstanding social worker. I hope.
Applications for our 2018 Cohort are now open. Apply here.