AnnaMarie has been a social work practitioner and manager for many years within the education system. She began her career as an Education Welfare Officer (EWO) in a large local authority in the East Midlands where she was seconded to gain her social work qualification in 1990. Upon her return she was successfully promoted through a competitive interviewing process to the role of Deputy Principal EWO which worked alongside 340 schools and had direct line management for 7 team members.
AnnaMarie recalls her transition into management as experiencing a sense of drowning as she tried to come to terms with a range of new responsibilities such as strategic management and supervision of staff.
“It was like a had a sponge in my head every day and being totally drowned by new experiences. I was also having to justify both myself and my service to colleagues in social care who saw us as a school board of men and women who took reluctant kids into school and prosecuted parents. The sponge seemed to grow heavier every day with constant expectations from schools for support whilst trying to manage the scant resources within my team. In the meantime my sponge was soaking up new management techniques to ensure effective interagency working. I often wonder now, years later, if anyone noticed my apprehension and lack of experience!
Feelings associated with being lonely (Bergin, 2009) and marginalised (Casey, 2008) are commonplace for new managers. This appears to be magnified for AnnaMarie as she was in a unique social work setting where she often felt that her role was misunderstood by managers even if they had a social care background themselves. Instead, the EWO appeared not to be valued alongside other preventative or family support services, and their methods of prosecuting parents were considered draconian. Although research consistently demonstrates a correlation between the emotional and academic outcomes for children (Huffman, 2012), AnnaMarie felt that the interface between schools and families was misunderstood by her own managers. It was as if she was straddling two sets of demands and expectations: social care and education. Like Susie‘s story of a sponge, AnnaMarie was soaking up new information and ways of working.
“The sponge has to soak up two sets of professional jargon, maintain professional credibility and mutual respect, manage a team on top of all the other management tasks such as supervision, appraisals, HR functions, budgets, caseload management whilst trying to consider the needs of the schools as well as the families.”
Despite being the “lonely voice” as a qualified social worker in a school environment, AnnaMarie loves her job. She continues to progress in her career and be further promoted with a change of emphasis to her role to one of safeguarding children .
AnnaMarie is now practising as an independent consultant, coordinating and developing support packages for school governors, early years settings and the independent sector.
Bergin, E. (2009) On becoming a manager and attaining managerial integrity, Leadership in Health Services, 22(1): 58-75.
Casey, R. (2008) On Becoming a Social Housing Manager: Work Identities in an ‘Invisible’ Occupation, Housing Studies, 23(5): 761-780.
(2012) Students at Risk Due to a Lack of Family Cohesiveness: A Rising Need for Social Workers in Schools, The Clearing House: A Journal of Educational Strategies, Issues and Ideas, 86:1, 37-42.