Rachel Bramble learned an important lesson when she took some ‘expert’ advice when working with a family from the Sikh community
I qualified in 1982 as a community youth worker and went into social work in 1988, working in local authorities with children and adults.
I found the bureaucratic systems inflexible and unimaginative, so much so they were actually detrimental to service users. So I took a risk by leaving my job as an area social worker and becoming a school social worker.
I have worked at Wolgarston High School in Staffordshire since May 2006 for three days a week.
I work in an open plan area with two teaching assistants, and I enjoy every minute of it.
I have developed a support model called Aero (Aspirations, Encouragement, Realism and Openness) which has reduced annual school exclusions from 251 to six in three years and has become a whole school philosophy. This has evolved into a social enterprise which I am hoping to take into other schools and environments across the UK with another social worker.
It is wonderful working in a positive, straight-talking environment where people admit their mistakes and look for solutions in a realistic way. Seeing a child who had previously been excluded from another school develop a passion for a subject is the best reward I could ever have.
The worst decision I ever made was to take someone else’s advice thinking that they were an expert. I was working with a Sikh family where the daughter had a disability and the family were concerned that she wasn’t going to the temple. They were also worried about what their community would think of her. She was an angry young person who often put herself at risk. I asked a colleague what I should do and was advised to talk to one of the elders of the temple, which I did.
He sounded very plausible so I agreed to visit the family with him so that he could encourage the girl to go to a girls’ group that they ran. As soon as we arrived he started shouting at the girl. I was appalled.
When he left I stayed behind and apologised for his behaviour. The parents said they thought he would be like that. I asked why they had gone along with it. They told me because they thought I was trying hard to help them. I had assumed that he would encourage the girl.
Since then I have been wary of proclaimed experts and have always treated people as unique individuals with their own way of interpreting the world.
Rachel Bramble is a self-employed social worker based at a secondary school in Staffordshire