Social work student goes from self doubt to national award

Open University student Sharon Fry explains how she learned to believe in her own abilities and won a commendation in a national social work student award

Open University student Sharon Fry explains how she learned to believe in her own abilities and eventually won a commendation in a national social work student award

I have studied with the Open University for seven years in total. I completed three courses before being accepted by my local authority for sponsorship. Attending a bricks and mortar university wasn’t an option for me due to a number of things i.e. finances, travelling distance due to rural area and educational attainment.

Therefore, the OU’s model of learning has been brilliant for me as I could continue to work and have an income whilst studying from home, which fitted well within my family life. I commenced my studying when my three children were young; they have grown up with mummy doing her “homework” and the study books going to the beach and family holidays as well as out in the garden.

There were benefits to studying from home. However you have to be motivated, keep to the timetables and above all avoid looking at things that should be done but you don’t have time for i.e. the ironing, dusting etc. There’s plenty of time to catch up with that when the exam or the end of course assignment is completed.

In the beginning I had little self-belief often holding off reading or commencing the next assignment until I got the results of the previous one. However I soon learnt that I needed to believe in my own abilities and just get on with it otherwise I was running on constant extension after extension. I found that each course I did built on my essay writing and time management skills as well as developing the knowledge and skills that I could use on a day to day basis within my practice. This worked well for me as I like concrete experiences to attach my learning to. I believe this helped me become more confident and competent. The social work course felt like a stepping stone, building each year to prepare me for when I actually qualified.

I took responsibility for my own learning by identifying the practice placement and persuading the local authority to support the placement. My final placement was out with my local authority with Home-Start Wigtownshire where I had the opportunity to work as a social worker in an entirely different way that challenged my thinking. During my placement there I worked with three families delivering direct support within their homes. I also helped to revive and re-develop a mutual self-help group for families. The attendance increased, allowing children and parents to determine their own goals and helped build community capacity.

The placement provided good insight to the value of preventive and proactive work with families, and my work there led to me being nominated for the British Association of Social Workers student social worker of the year. I was a runner up and highly commended for my practice, which was fabulous. The award ceremony was attended by all nominators and made me feel proud to be joining the social work profession. It is important however to say that it would not have been possible without the support of my own family, Dumfries and Galloway Council, Home-Start Wigtownshire and the families I worked with.

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