A reflection on the contribution of the WMSWTP and the importance of Practice Weeks in Social Work.
Social Work England Social Work Week
By Zoe Yeomans Consultant Social Worker (South Sub – Region)
Before I joined the West Midlands Social Work Teaching Partnership in July 2020, I had never heard of Practice Weeks. Fast forward to now, March 2021, and I have been part of applying to be part of and participated in Social Work England Social Work Week, attended Coventry Practice Week, participated in these within Solihull MBC and for Staffordshire University and supported the development of a Practice Week of our own for the Teaching Partnership in May 2021.
There are so many more that I am aware have been undertaken across the Teaching Partnership and all have been so well attended with such positive feedback coming from them.
I have sat in awe listening to speakers share their experiences of social work and practice and the value for me as a practitioner has been indescribable. When the application process to submit and deliver a session for Social Work England was announced we knew within our team that we wanted to be part of it.
But what would we share?
What would people most like to hear about?
What could be achieved by us sharing our progress?
Who could we reach?
The questions we had allowed us to sit back and explore all the amazing things we have going on within the Teaching Partnership, with our partners and the things our partners are including us in the development and dissemination of. We were able to explore and evaluate the projects we have undertaken. It was a fantastic discussion where we realised just how much we have done as a team in our time together since July 2020.
We decided to focus one of our more large-scale, whole Teaching Partnership initiatives – Our Practice Education Strategy Group. It is an area we are so passionate about as a Programme Team and as a Partnership so we were very excited to share it with all those who would potentially attend the session.
We explored where we were when we took up our positions within the Teaching Partnership in the early stages of the COVID-19 Pandemic. There were paused student placements and added pressure on the workforce alongside the implications on practice with the move to remote working. Also, the additional consideration of the regional variations across the partners within the largest Teaching Partnership in the country!
We discussed where we are speaking about the work we have undertaken regarding supporting Practice Educators (PEs) by exploring recruitment, retention and regaining currency for PEs, supporting the linking up of PEPS delivery leads, utilising data analytics to explore planning strategies for placements and recruitment and by developing Communities of Practice to support the PEs in our partnership. A large part of where we are now is watching the progression of 11 projects funded by this strategy borne from funding from the Department for Education in order to explore the quality, quantity and sustainability of Practice Education across the West Midlands Social Work Teaching Partnership. The passion of those involved and the impact the projects is very rewarding to witness.
Finally, we discussed where we want to be breaking this down in to how we intend to support
the increase in the quantity of quality placements and support for PEs whilst ensuring this is sustainable; particularly in relation to exploring how to support the recognition of Practice Educators within Social Work, supporting the creation of formal strategies and to integrate and strengthen this role within our partner organisations.
Our initial concerns of whether anyone would come were answered as more and more people entered the session with over 100 professionals tuning in. Having become used to speaking to our partners it was quite nerve wracking speaking to people outside of our Partnership. It was such a relief to see the interest, with people asking such insightful questions about a topic and approach that we are so proud of.
Of course, we had our technical hitches!
When undertaking our run through it became obvious that MS Teams closed captions are not the most reliable translations of the spoken word and we knew we needed to consider a plan to provide clarity if it was needed by those attending.
We also included recorded messages from our partners and the team really pulled together to support with fixing the sound when it didn’t work to start with. There was some serious work being done in the background to fix that one. We also took away some important messages about consideration of how the music volume on those videos may make it difficult for those with hearing impairments to hear the voice of the speaker so that is something we will definitely take in to consideration moving forward with future presentations.
Overall, it was a fantastic way to explore how we are progressing as a team and pursuing the areas of Social Work that are so important to us and our partners. It allowed us to reflect and answer all those questions I mentioned before. There should always be a place for sharing our story with others so that we can explore the reciprocity of sharing our ideas and learning from others. We also had a lot of fun putting it together and we are all really proud of the final result which Social Work England recorded and will make available to all, if you’re interested in Practice Education you should definitely take a look.
My message from this experience would be to explore, develop, participate and attend Practice Weeks whenever you see them advertised as the benefits to your own practice is one thing, but the benefit to those you work with and support is invaluable.
See our SWE Social Work Week presentation here: