Rachel Mulcahy has been a social worker at Wolgarston High School in Penkridge, Staffordshire, since May 2006. She was offered the job after writing to the school and suggesting she use her skills to work preventively with its pupils.
Having qualified with a CQSW and community work combined in 1982, Mulcahy knew she wanted to work in a school environment but had not had the chance to until a letter worthy of Jim’ll Fix It made her social work career goal come true. “I had always wondered why we, as social workers, didn’t have this natural system of working in schools. It is a natural way of working because schools are where children are you work at their pace and when they are ready,” she says.
Mulcahy provides support three days a week, in school hours, to the children and young people using Wolgarston’s family and students’ service. Teachers, parents and pupils approach her if they have a concern or an issue. The problems she helps students address include school-phobia, disruptive behaviour and child protection concerns – which she refers to a trained teacher.
She sees a pupil for as long as they wish to see her and until the difficulty is resolved. Sometimes, she says, the child or young person only needs to see her once or twice.
“I work with them to look at what they are good at – my approach is not problem-based. In the real word it’s all about problems and we want to make school different from that,” she says.
Her pre-emptive work draws a positive reaction from other professionals. The number of students excluded at Wolgarston has fallen since Mulcahy started her job, which she believes is a testament to her approach to children and young people. “It’s not just about analysing the young people. It’s about what their life is about, not all dreary stuff like what their achievements are.”
Mulcahy believes all schools would benefit from having a dedicated social worker to act as an intermediary between teachers, pupils and parents. “I’ve helped make the children happier, they are full of life and look more bubbly.”