Summer Institute Week 5: Over so soon? Five weeks that have been and gone

24th August 2015

It seems as if no time at all has passed since the Opening Ceremony, but week 5 – the last week of the Cohort 2015 Summer Institute – has been and gone.    The week began with the return of the first ever cohort of Frontline participants, with opportunities for both new and returning participant groups to meet and share their experiences over the weekend.  

Monday saw the final teaching day for Cohort 2014 participants before they qualify as social workers and move from the supported learning environment of their ‘units’ to being employed in local authorities.  The day ended with the Academic Team sharing personal reflections about how we’ve seen the group develop into skilled and confident social work practitioners during the course of the year, who use their skills in systemic practice, motivational interviewing and parenting interventions to great effect. 

We heard how time and time again they had gone the extra mile in order to make a difference to children and families.  We heard too about unsought feedback from other professionals, colleagues and from families themselves about the quality of their work.   It was a beautiful illustration of what can be achieved with sensitive, collaborative frontline social work practice!

For the 2015 Cohort, teaching in week 5 was a busy affair as we focused on the key issues of domestic violence, substance misuse, mental health issues and parents with learning disabilities.  We were joined by external specialists such as Professor Arlene Vetere, who delivered a riveting presentation on Tuesday about the systemic work she is involved in with families where violence has featured.  

A number of practitioners and experts by experience took part in the teaching and discussions with us, enabling us to learn from their expertise.   Thanks to Jenny, Kate, Brione, Zoe and Simon for sharing your experiences of care and some of the more difficult times in your lives.

We were also joined by three of our Cohort 2014 participants who were able to contribute to the group discussions because of the quality of their learning experiences working with agencies that specialise in some of the issues we focus on.  This is something we want to continue to develop as Frontline participants become skilled practitioners – so watch this space in future years. 

As the Summer Institute draws to an end there is a sense both of trepidation and anticipation as participants prepare to start to learn to practice social work together in units in local authorities.   They will be changed by that experience as they start to work with children and families. 

This happened to me too as a young social worker in training over twenty years ago. I remember that transition from student to practitioner vividly. However, I learnt much of my practice wisdom post qualification. For that reason I am envious that my training did not include such exposure to practice in a reflective learning environment, led by an experienced Consultant Social Worker, and supported by a curriculum founded on evidence-based approaches and skills for practice.