A day in the life of a Social Work student
by Kerrie Watson
My alarm goes off, as much as I want to snooze it, I drag myself out of bed, get ready, grab breakfast, and wait to be picked up to go to my placement. My friend and I both study social work and are on the same placement. It’s nice to have someone to work with who I know - and she drives, which means no bus which is a bonus!
After waking ourselves up with some music, we arrive at placement and I get ready to start my day. I open up my laptop and check my emails and the systems we use at placement, so I am ready for my day and know of any specific meetings or tasks.
My placement is at a Pupil Referral Unit (PRU). These are schools that accommodate children struggling for a variety of reasons such as behaviour, medical issues, and social exclusion. PRUs can provide smaller classes and increased one-on-one support to help students who struggle with mainstream education.
My day is usually working with young people in school, supervising them when learning (online, unfortunately - thanks COVID) and familiarising myself using the different systems the school uses to manage and track behaviour and safeguarding concerns. On placement, we usually get training for an hour or so each day. This allows us to learn different theories and approaches, how to reflect and develop our professional knowledge when developing as social work students.
A colleague is giving us some training; she works within the school providing pastoral support. I learn about her role, what her day looks like and includes, and what support she provides students and families from the school. Finding out about different cases, the reasons why students attend the PRU, and what support they need is really interesting. Our colleagues are enthusiastic about involving us. We get opportunities to sit in on meetings managed and led by social workers and other professionals - with consent and confidentiality of course (rule number 1 of social work!)
I’m back in my class with the students and it's lunchtime, yum! Sadly, not every placement will provide you with lunch every day, but I’m pretty lucky here and get lunch every day!
It’s the last lesson of the day, because of COVID the days are shorter, and my day tends to finish at 12.45 when the students leave for the day. We drive back but my day doesn’t end when I get home at around 1.30pm. I may have meetings to attend on Teams, essays, or reports to complete supervision with social workers. These can help me learn more theories that I can use in practice on my placement.
I take some time to reflect on my day and think about what I have learned, including any questions I may have for the future days I work. I reflect on my professional role and what I could do better next time. After this, I usually take a walk by the river Lune before chilling out with my flat mates for the night. We usually cook and watch some random show that we’re addicted to. Currently, it’s The Walking Dead. After this, I usually end up snoozing for the night ready for another busy day tomorrow.
What about when I’m not on placement?
At Lancaster as part of my Social Work course, I complete a 70-day placement. If I wasn’t on placement I would be studying on campus at the library or in lectures. While all universities may have different requirements on their Social Work course, you will have some practical experience and some interesting modules to dive into.
Before going on placement, I completed three modules: Social Work with Children and Families, Social Work and Young People, and Social Work in Adult Social Care. Everyone has their favourite modules and ones they’re most interested in, I realised quite soon I was interested in working with young people. We learn different concepts in this module, and these include trauma-informed approaches, exploitation, online abuse, youth justice, and young people and mental health.
Between completing lectures, reading, viewing the set work before seminars and studying at the library, I usually grab some food from campus with my friends. Trust me, you’ll never be short of options for food at Lancaster! A personal fave of mine is a trust-worthy Greggs! Flash your student ID and be granted a free sausage roll when buying a meal deal, the gift of all gifts! After demolishing my Greggs like the starving student I am, I usually discuss work with my friends and course mates. This is where we get to share and compare ideas, allowing us to learn from each other and develop our own practice further.
The great thing about Lancaster University when studying Social Work from my experience is the opportunities to discuss, debate, and analyse different methods, theories, and learning and along with the support from the lecturers, you can decide what learning and methods suit you best.
My advice for anyone interested in studying Social Work would be that it can be a challenging course, and sometimes emotionally draining, but as soon as you begin to build those relationships and see outcomes made by yourself and colleagues, you’ll recognise how rewarding Social Work can be.
Kerrie is a second year undergraduate at Lancaster University, and is studying Social Work.
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