Recruiting research particpants

My Professional Doctorate has moved on a pace. Having successfully had my research proposal and ethics papers approved, I am now ready to recruite my participants. The aim of this Professional Doctorate research study is to understand the affect (the emotions) of the transition from social work practitioner to supervisor. Existing literature and research shows that the emotions involved in this transition are overlooked and instead the focus is supervision models, functions and tools.
This study aims to fill this knowledge gap.


Would you like to participate in a Doctoral research project?

Are you a qualified social work who has become a supervisor within the last 6 months in Children Services (voluntary or statutory sector)? If so, I’d love to hear from you. Please contact me at:


changed_my_mindOn Monday, Bertie will be introducing me to new friends – my Professional Doctorate supervisors. I am a little nervous, as well as excited. I like meeting and working with new people. But supervisors? I have heard many a horror story about supervisors.  Why is that that when you tell others that you’re pursuing Doctoral studies, they then feel compelled to reel off an awful experience they have had with their supervisor, or that of a colleague’s supervisor, or a friend of a friend’s supervisor. I’ve been left with the image of supervisors as cruel, relentless slave drivers who gleefully rub their hands and  relish in the delights of  exhausting their unsuspecting students.  It reminds me of announcing a pregnancy, when immediately after congratulating you, that same person recollects the most horrific birthing story in the utmost detail. I’m hanging onto the fact that I’ve given birth. Yes, it’s painful – but then again, I did it twice. Surely, I can survive doctoral supervision too.

The irony is that my Doctorate is about supervision and more precisely social work supervision. I foresee that from time to time, Bertie and I might get a little confused when the words ‘supervisor’ or ‘supervision’ are used.  From what I can tell, the least contested idea about supervision (both in social work and doctoral studies) is the significance of the supervisory relationship.  I recently had the privilege of meeting Liz Beddoe, Associate Professor from the University of Auckland, New Zealand, who together with Allyson Davys wrote Best Practice in Professional Supervision.  I am reminded of their wise words:

As with all relationships the opening engagement is critical to create common understanding, shared expectations and thus ensure that the ongoing supervision meets the needs of both parties. (Davys & Beddoe, 2010:59)

I know that those horror stories about supervisors are stereotypical, unhelpful and in the main (I hope) exaggerated, if not untrue. I will stop listening to them.  But preparation is important and so my task this weekend is to mull over what will be expected in this new supervisory experience that I am about to enter with Bertie. How can I best prepare for it? What do I need from the relationship? What will I give? How best can I best benefit my supervisors’ knowledge and experience? What are our commonalities and differences?

Bertie – we’ve got work to do.

Bertie has a first date

The Life of Bertie

A little while ago, whilst working on my Professional Doctorate, I stumbled across a quote by Albert Einstein:

‘If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough’.

I’m not usually one to share quotes on social media sites, although there is nothing wrong with this, many people do and I tend to read them, but rarely ‘like’ or ‘retweet’ them. But on this occasion, as I struggled to find the words to express the thoughts trapped in my mind, the quote spoke to me. I posted it on Twitter, others ‘favourited’ it and shared it within the virtual community.

Meanwhile, I downloaded the image that accompanied the quote, printed it off and pinned it next to my PC to act as a reminder to ‘keep it simple’. As I was doing this my son (aged 14), came into the study and read the quote. From this moment on he started to call my Doctoral students ‘Bertie’ (after the great Einstien). The name has stuck. In our house, we now talk about Bertie as if she is a real person. How is Bertie today? The children ask Are you going into work today or spending the day with Bertie? Einstein

Giving my Professional Doctorate a name seems very appropriate. It has become a significant part of my life and by extension, a part of my family. She (yes, Bertie is a woman) exists, and sometimes is bigger than life itself. She is demanding, attention seeking, draining, rewarding , joyous in equal and different measures. Bertie is relentless, she occupies my day time thoughts and my night time dreams. She is constant, and ever present.

Bertie and I have a complicated relationship. During the first year of my studies, I adored her. She was my mentor, guide and teacher – introducing me to new concepts, new ways of thinking and different ways of making sense of the world. She quickly recognised my thirst for reading and unashamedly encouraged me to spend a small fortune on books. She celebrated my successes as I passed assessments, sighing with relief with me and I could almost (but not quite) feel her patting me on the back, almost taking the credit. During the second year of my studies, I went through a phase when I became, shall we say, less fond of Bertie. She confused and baffled me on occasions. She became relentless (and a little bit evil) as deadlines piled upon deadlines, we became distant. Essentially, Bertie and I had become a cliché – we stopped communicating, started to grow apart and I even considered a trail separation. Bertie, being the quiet type, was never going to make the first move. Over the summer, I decided to reconnect with her, trying to remember why we forged a friendship in the first place. And slowly, we have managed to reconnect, recall what drew us together in the first place and our hopes for the future.

Bertie has come back into the fold. And this week, she has found two more friends in the form of supervisors to introduce me to. Life with Bertie is about to turn even more interesting

Social Work Book Club

Social Work Book Club first began with an experimental reading group on an undergraduate social work programme in the University of Central Lancaster (UCLAN) led by senior lecturer, Amanda Taylor. The Book Club is updated on an on-going basis by Amanda, using Storify. More latterly, this project has extended across the four national of the United Kingdom(UK) to involve six Universities, including Northampton.

On 7th October, 2013 the extended Book Club, involving all 6 Universities joined together to discuss the book Room by Emma Donoghue. The discussion was led by Professor Nicky Stanley from UCLAN who introduced the book plot, characters, and key features associated with social work practice. This discussion was continued via a traditional book club setting (lecturers and students around a table) at the University of Northampton .

A simultaneous debate and book discussion was on-going via Twitter. These are some of the comments:

Beth, one second year student from Northampton described the Book Club event as

I thought it was very Interesting and rewarding, great first run!

This new initiative for the University of Northampton, was successful. Giving academics and students the opportunity to consider social work through a work of fiction. The next Book Club is on Tuesday 25th February 2014.



Education is about the students in the room

On Thursday 16th May 2013, we celebrated the launch of my new edited book Anti-racism in Social Work Practice. It was held at the University of Northampton . Friends, family, former together with current students and supporting colleagues joined the celebrations.

For me it was a memorable evening that gave me the opportunity to thank individuals during my speech and reflect on this journey.

Through the course of writing chapters within this book and editing, I have learnt a great deal about myself. I have learnt that there is a fine line between nagging and encouraging, and I hope that the chapter authors have forgiven me. They include: Sue Kennedy, Prospera Tedam, Sukhwinder Singh, Bernie Curran, Charity Chukwuemeka and Paul Crofts. It’s been a privilege. I have learnt that there really is such a thing as a daft question, more than one in fact. I have been fortunate enough to have a supportive, encouraging and patient publisher: Di Page. But the biggest lesson that I’ve learnt is that education is not about the teacher at the front, but the students in the room. It is you current and former students who have taught me that whatever our backgrounds, as humans we have more in common than we do differences. But that our differences are special and unique which make us who we are and so we need to fight to maintain these rather than trying to fit in. For that I thank you sincerely. So all students, current and former, in the room, please stand and take a bow.

And lastly, I’d like to leave you with one message, which I particularly want my two children and students to hear. If you surround yourself with good people, work really hard, be determined and true to yourself: anything is possible.




Tagged ,

New Book edited by Angie Bartoli

Anti-Racism in Social Work Practice is a new book which I have edited. It was published in April 2013 by Critical Publishing Critical Publishing .

Anti-racism has a long history within the profession of social work and its education. Despite an agenda within higher education which promotes internationalization and practice which recognises diversity, little has been written to address the question of why black African students have a different experience from others on their social work educational journey. This book is based upon the authors’ experience as educators and their own research about and with black students’ experience of racism and ‘otherness’ within social work practice and education. Radical and honest in nature, it re-visits anti-racism within social work practice and education from a student focused and informed perspective based on lived experience and conversations. This book will be of interest to all social work students, educators and policy makers with an interest in anti-racism and diversity. It includes practical models and tried and tested tools to help the reader work through these issues.


The book can be purchased directly from Critical Publishing Critical Publishing and is available on Amazon Amazon


Everyone has the right to be themselves

Hate crime is defined as any incident perceived by the victim or anyone else that happens because of prejudice/hate e.g.verbal abuse, pranking, happy slapping, graffiti, abusive gestures, threats, groups hanging around to intimidate you, malicious texts and more. It includes bullying and cyberbullying.

Last summer (2011) a number  of young people were surveyed in their area. 90% of these young people told the Northampton Youth Forum that not enough was being done by schools and employers to:

  • Support people in reporting hate and bullying incidents
  • Raise awareness about bullying and hate crimes and the impact it has.

Almost everyone surveyed said that the word ‘gay’ is used pejoratively, with negative connotations.  The Northampton Youth Forum decided to support the Stamp Out Hate Crime campaign. Their wish is to help” young people to be better informed, to understand what hate crime is and that it has consequences – legally and in terms of people’s well-being, self-esteem and mental health”.

To this end, there are a number of ways they have tried to get the community involved, including:

My daughter, aged 9 entered one of these competitions which was to ‘name the elephant’  who is to become the emblem for the Northampton Stop Hate Crime Campaign. Children were asked to name the elephant who is due to set out on a local ‘safari’ this summer. The winner was announced at a ceremony to mark the International Day Against Homophobia on 17 May 2012. Ben Cohen, the former international Rugby player, has strong local links. He announced the winner. Guess what? My daughter won! Her suggestion was Unique – as according to her everyone has the right to be themselves. Wise words.

The long goodbye

“If it wasn’t for my head, I’d feel fine”

Ageing can be a difficult process. Watching my mother age is painful. She has Alzheimer’s disease which has caused her dementia.  Despite still being with us at the grand age of 80, the woman before me is no longer the mother I remember but will always be the one I love. She has become a shell of her former self. Her eyes are often vacant, her conversation stilted, her sleep disturbed, frequently agitated and mostly confused. My once courageous mother lives in perpetual fear.  I have lost her to a disease that has muddled her mind, robbed her of dignity and made the simplest of daily tasks impossible for her to contemplate. Renowned for her ‘pile it up high’ homemade cooking, she is now terrified of entering a kitchen, and needs her own food cutting up.

Together with my father, she came to the UK in the early 1950’s in the hope of building a new life for their young children. She left behind her own family, her tiny Sicilian village, sunshine and everything that was familiar and comforting. Most difficult of all was her decision to leave her two young children in the care of her own mother, whilst my father and she saved up enough money until they could bring them to the UK too. Knowing nothing about this new country, no knowledge of the English language but full of hope and resilience, she modestly, for the first time in her life, entered the world of work in a sausage making factory.

Now, having retired back to Sicily, she regularly talks of this time without a trace of bitterness. She recalls the sacrifices she made and sheer hard work and long hours she endured. But mostly she describes a time full of confusion, fear, bewilderment of this new land full of promise but unfamiliar in so many ways. Listening to her, as her mind untangles the memories it has formed as she tries to retrieve them, she flitters using both the past and present tense. Emotionally the dementia has taken her back to that time as a young scared migrant. Again she feels alone, afraid and confused.

Alzheimer’s Disease International (ADI) estimates that there are currently 30 million people with dementia in the world, with 4.6 million new cases annually (one new case every 7 seconds).  I am unsure precisely when my mother became part of these statistics. With hindsight, I understand that this disease has been silently but diligently progressing, hiding in the crevices of her mind, slowly gnawing at her brain cells. Her dementia marches on as those around her try to understand, care and support her as best we can.  She often states: If it wasn’t for this head of mine, I’d feel fine. As ever, my mother is always right. 

It’s not the end

As a social work educator  I am constantly thinking of creative ways in which to engage with students and introduce them to social issues. Films, especially current ones, are one way of doing this.  Having recently watched  The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel heralded as a ‘feel good factor’ of a film, it struck me that it is brimming with some not so pretty social issues: ageism, sexuality in older age, loss and dying, ill-health, shrinking pensions, economic crisis to name but a few.

This film portrays Britain as a dull grey country, where the economy is shaky, the National Health Service buckling and older people are rarely valued or recognised. It is against this somewhat dismal backdrop that the viewer is introduced to seven characters. Evelyn, played by the talented Judi Dench, is recently widowed and finds herself making decisions for the first time in her life starting with considering how to deal with the debts left behind my her husband. Graham, the retired judge and gay man seeks answers to a past left uncovered. Muriel, overtly racist, is awaiting a hip replacement which is outsourced to avoid an extensive waiting list. Jean and Douglas, a bickering couple are disillusioned with the dreary options retirement has to offer after a lifetime of work. Madge freeing herself from the demands of grand motherhood, is looking for a new romance.Norman, probably the most comical of characters, is looking for sex.

This somewhat unlikely group of people are all enticed by the promises of a luxury, refurbished hotel in Jaipur, India, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, which promises sanctuary and hope for “the elderly and beautiful”.   In contrast to the grey skies of Britain, India is depicted as a land bursting with vibrant colours, aromatic smells and bustling with sounds. Far from exotic, the hotel is practically in ruins, with missing walls and doors and smothered in dust. On arrival they are greeted by the enthusiastic young owner, Sonny whose mantra is “Everything will be all right in the end… if it’s not all right then it’s not the end”.

Whilst being a good way to introduce students to social policy and issues, the film isn’t without its stereotypes. Firstly, the environmental depiction of India as a place where pedestrians are over ridden by cars or squashed into over-crowded buses, tut tuts snaking at high-speed within the city streets, children begging whilst others play cricket with makeshift bats. Secondly, its people who enjoy spicy foods and family life epitomised by a son overshadowed by successful siblings and an over-interfering mother who is intent in choosing his bride. Whilst the film does much to portray ageing in a positive light, the stereotypes are most keenly observed in the character of Norman. Here is an ageing man portrayed as preoccupied with the absence of a sex life which means he will go to great lengths to rectify this by lying about his age, status, name and seeking medical assistance.

The ‘typical’ scenario that frustrated me the most was Graham, who finally became re-acquainted with the love of his life, dies suddenly but peacefully. Why is there rarely a happy ending for gay people or couples? Didn’t this happen in Four Weddings and a Funeral too?

One of the interesting issues that the film throws up is that of cultural competence. The character Evelyn, becomes a cultural adviser to a call centre and poetically describes the art of dunking:

  “Dunk? Means lowering the biscuit into the tea and letting it soak in there and trying to calculate the exact moment before the biscuit dissolves, when you whip it up into your mouth and enjoy the blissful union of biscuits and tea combined. It’s more relaxing than it sounds”.

Despite not being the most profound film or script written, it is amusing and snippets of this film will inevitably provoke discussions with students. I might just give it a go.

Creativity takes courage: Henri Matisse (1869-1954)

Portrait of L.N. Delekorskaya According to the modern French artist Matisse,  “Creativity takes courage” .

Using creative arts therapeutically has a long-standing tradition within the helping professions. Encompassing a number of approaches: play, art, drama, dance, music and story-telling, the arts can be healing, act as a  mode of communication and inner expression. Similarly the creative arts can be used as a less threatening vehicle across the generations, and within a number of helping professions to liberate, hear, recount, see, smell, feel and learn from human experience.

What the helping professions have learnt from this creative process and practice, how the skills of professionals should be developed, and how creative arts can be used in professional development will be the foci for a special themed edition of The Journal of Practice Teaching and Learning.

CONTRIBUTIONS ARE SOUGHT ON: previous, on-going or new research in this area; theoretical contributions; case studies of the use of creative arts in practice; discussion pieces; innovative examples of education or training. Papers are sought from any profession using creative arts within their practice or education and from any country.

As the Deputy Editor, please send me an abstract (no more than 250 words) of your proposed paper to by June 30th 2012. If your abstract is selected you will by asked to submit a written article by September 1st 2012 which will be subject to the usual peer-reviewed process.