Diploma in Social Work 1990
I studied Psychology at St Andrews University before coming to Edinburgh to complete my PhD in the Psychology Department. My PhD was in the development of visual perception and sparked by broader interest in child development that been an ongoing theme in my work. After a year in a post-doctoral post in Psychology I considered applying to study Clinical Psychology but, instead, my eye was drawn to an advertisement for the Social Work course at Edinburgh University and it reminded me that years ago, when still at school, I had had an interest in social work but had been steered away from it by the careers' officer. So I applied, went through the rather scary selection process that entailed group discussions, role play and an interview, and came onto the course.
The most refreshing thing for me was moving away from pure lab-based research and moving into a more applied setting. My first placement was at Play in Hospital with the lovely Nita Brown as my supervisor and I found the whole process of supported and reflective learning to be a revelation. We were quite a feisty group of students and quite challenging, especially on gender issues. I made some life-long friends on the course. One of my friends on the course was the wonderful Rona Woodward with whom I had the pleasure to work with as a colleague at Stirling University before her very sad and untimely death. I loved my subsequent placements at Number 20 in Muirhouse – the explicit feminist approach was right up my street and my final placement was in Pilton Area Team where I ended up in my first social work post on graduation.
I loved my job in Intake at Pilton, in those days duty was generic and it meant that there was huge variety and great opportunities to develop knowledge and skills. When specialisation came along, I chose children and families' work and ended up at Westfield House in Corstorphine. I still have many memories of the children and young people I worked with in those years and how much I learnt from them about coping with adversity. During that time, I started to do a bit of teaching on the child protection courses at Dundee University and gradually increased my time in a teaching fellow role, coupled with practice until eventually I moved to Dundee on a full-time post. It was while I was there that, with Sally Wassell and Robbie Gilligan, I wrote the book on child development for child care and protection work that really got me into writing again. I went to Stirling University as a Senior Lecturer, had a spell on secondment with the Scottish Government to work on the Child Protection Audit and Review and then went back to Dundee as the Professor of Child Care and Protection. I came back to Stirling in 2007 as the Professor of Social Work and have for many years worked there with a lovely group of colleagues. My next move will be away from social work to a take up a post as a Dean at Queen Margaret University.
Like many, I am very concerned about the future of social work education in England and the potential knock-on effect in Scotland. The erosion of the generic qualification, the introduction of shorter courses with minimal University input and the attack on social work values is alarming. In Scotland, we appear to be fending off the worst aspects of this and we must continue to champion our excellent social work programmes. Applications to social work are robust – despite the negative publicity people still want to come into social work which is good and we have really lovely students, so I see the future of practice to be safe in their hands.
Source: Own contribution.