He Died Waiting: Learning the Lessons – a Bereaved Mother’s View of Mental Health Services

by Caroline Aldridge

Caroline Aldridge, a social work lecturer, bereaved mother, and independent author, has written and self-published a book, He Died Waiting, with a purpose. She invites readers into her world in the hope of changing peoples’ hearts and minds and provoking positive change. Her personal and professional perspectives are cleaved together in a rich account of lived experience.

Through Caroline, we get to know her eldest son, Tim, who had bipolar disorder. The mental health services Tim encountered were chaotic, inaccessible, and unsafe. Tim never seemed to be the right kind of ill to get the help he needed. Like many other people with mental illness, he joined an endless waiting list. He died waiting for an appointment.

Caroline was thrust into the incomprehensible and brutal procedures that follow an ‘unexpected death’. The collision of her professional and personal life led to consequences beyond anything she could have imagined. She encountered a cruel, system-wide, culture of denial and defensiveness.

Nevertheless, this is a positive narrative about the power of integrity, relationships, compassion, and love. Tim’s story illustrates the impact of the current crisis in mental health services and the empty rhetoric of commitments to ‘learn lessons’ when things go wrong. Caroline’s book is a plea, for policymakers, organisations, professionals, and the public, to exercise decency, challenge unsafe or unkind practice, support people in distress, and push for improved services.

The foreword, by Sara Ryan (author of Justice for Laughing Boy: Connor Sparrowhawk – A Death by Indifference),  says, He Died Waiting is a “searing account of love, family, mental health and the grotesque response from those responsible … it literally took my breath away.”

This book is perfect for students and practitioners across health and social care who want to immerse themselves in the ‘service-user’ and carer experience. Caroline is developing resources for practice educators, to support them to use He Died Waiting as a learning resource. The book and these resources are available on Caroline’s website: www.learningsocialworker.com Caroline tweets as @CarolineAldrid5 and @waiting_he

Reviews:

“The book draws a picture of Tim and I felt like I could stand in his shoes and view his encounters with professionals from his perspective. As a student, this book reminds me to be curious, kind, compassionate and non-judgemental” (social work student).

“I urge all in social work, nursing and all human services professions to read the deeply moving He Died Waiting by the courageous Caroline Aldridge” (social work team manager).

“When you have a story as vivid to support your learning you remember exactly why it is that you are doing what you do” (mental health practitioner).

“I couldn’t put it down. So much resonated with me as mother” (bereaved parent).

“This book is beautifully written. I veered from admiration to despair, from tears to hope. It will not only move you but will leave you asking what you can do to effect change” (mental health service-user).

Reference:

Aldridge, C. (2020). He died waiting: Learning the lessons – a bereaved mother’s view of mental health services. Norwich. Learning Social Worker Publications. ISBN: 978-1-8382420-0-8

Personal Safety for Social Care and Health Staff

The recent tragic events involving Sarah Everard brought into sharp focus the potential risks affecting women in particular. It also reminded me of the risks facing social workers in the course of their daily task visiting children and families in the community. Hopefully the easing of lockdown restrictions will enable social workers to engage in more face to face work. This is vital and welcome but workers and employers need to be aware that it has the potential to bring additional risk.

The safety of social workers, health workers and other social care staff has been a concern of mine for many years. As a practitioner in children’s social care I received threats, intimidation and actual violence myself.  Like many others, I used to think it was part of the job , but came to realise with more experience that it was not acceptable .

Feeling safe at work is essential for social care and health workers to enable them to do their job properly. The task of relationship building, assessment and decision making depends on the worker being able to work calmly without undue stress. This is important for individuals and families as well as workers to get the best understanding of their needs. A worker who is feeling insecure or frightened is not able to function effectively, and poor decisions may be made as evidenced in a number of Serious Case Reviews.

There have been many initiatives to address this issue from the government task force in the 1999, and campaigns led by Community Care magazine. There has been some recognition of the importance of the issue and a safe working environment is required by the current Standards for Employers of Social Workers 2020. I am aware however that attention to staff safety at work is very variable and many practitioners feel themselves to be personally at risk in the course of their jobs.

My book was developed from these concerns and is still relevant to the task today, including general risk awareness for lone practitioners and also those in specific social work based situations. I believe that the issues covered would benefit from being discussed in team and management meetings as part of planning for the return to normal practise from the coronavirus pandemic.

Brian Atkins is the author of Personal Safety for Social Workers and Health Professionals, Critical Publishing

Anti-racism in Social Work 2021: Patiently Waiting

By Wayne Reid

BASW England, Professional Officer, Social Worker & Anti-racism Visionary

This article represents my personal perspectives and not the views or sentiments of my employer or any other organisation.

‘Outlaw wisdom’

Question – What does ‘Megxit’’, the KCMG medal and the Social Work professional standards all have in common?

Answer – They are all influenced by White supremacy ideology. 

The treatment of Meghan Markle and her son Archie (as disclosed in her recent interview) triggered reminders for me of the sickeningly racist KCMG medal and highlights some parallels with Social Work.  Of course, Britain’s long history of colonisation and slavery, very much casts a revealing spotlight on many of our ‘modern institutions’.  An immediate and far-reaching example would be our colonised education curriculums.  I realise ‘moral’ positions are subjective.  However, it is undeniable that the subjective moral opinions (and decisions) of the powerful ‘elite’ in our democracy dictates all of our lives.  “Morality cannot be legislated, but behaviour can be regulated.” (Martin Luther King).

I’d like to impart some ‘outlaw wisdom’ (as described by the White actor Matthew McConaughey), specifically on how ‘Megxit’ and the racist KCMG medal interrelates with the existing regulatory standards, poor working conditions and the disproportionately negative implications for Social Workers of colour.  Meghan feels she was not afforded any protections or support from the Royal Family.  Similarly, many Social Workers of colour have also expressed their dismay at the lack of protections or support during the disproportionately high number of investigations into their practice.  The absence of protections and support for Social Workers of Colour further exposes them to the ‘weathering’ of pervasive racism on a daily basis.  Obviously, these are just a few examples of how White supremacy works against us (people of colour).

For me, there are several correlations between the KCMG medal and the regulatory standards for Social Workers.  Both are symbolic of the implicit values and ethics of the institutions they represent.  Both symbolise ‘normal’ and ‘respectable’ White history.  Both involve exerting authority (overt & covert – acknowledged and subliminal) over others (particularly people of colour).  Both imply honourability in compliance.  Both require understanding of the ethos of each institution.  Both, possibly unconsciously, perpetuate ‘the lie’ (Professor Glaude) and the ‘values gap’ encoded as ‘accepted wisdom’ that “White is best.”  Although Professor Glaude’s work refers to ‘the lie’ upon which America has predicated its beliefs, the relevance to the UK is unquestionable.  Symbolism can generate misplaced feelings of ‘pride’ and ‘patriotism’ in those who are compliant and ‘apprehension’ and ‘isolation’ in those questioning the implicit beliefs.  Citizens of “Great Britain”, with its historical adherence to White supremacist ideology, can be all too easily seduced into accepting the ‘inherent rightness’ of a position – even if that position is in desperate need of modernised review.  Whether this relates to Social Work and how we respond professionally (to the least fortunate in our society), or on whom we confer honours via symbolic medals, it should all be reviewed with a sense of equal respect for ALL people.  Therefore, I feel this also has relevance to the regulatory standards and other aspects of Social Work.

Maybe the morality of my perspective runs counter to the ‘norm’.  However, I feel I have evidence and intelligence to support my claims.  I have previously written: “Disappointingly, [neither the] education and training standards for 2019 or 2020, nor the professional standards for Social Workers, explicitly refer to anti-discriminatory (ADP), anti-oppressive (AOP) or anti-racist practice (ARP)  I refer to these facts to underline the importance of these fundamental principles…  Without explicit inclusion, how else can Social Work educators and workers be properly educated and held to account on [ADP, AOP and ARP]…? The current Social Work standards are regressive and do nothing to advance the principles set out by their predecessors – despite the desperate and obvious necessity…  I feel their omission in Social Work regulation is a travesty of social justice in itself.”  My publicly documented concerns have not yet generated a response from Social Work England (SWE) or MP’s with the power to review and introduce new legislation or guidance.

The regulatory standards (nor their associated guidance) make no reference to the Black and Ethnic Minority workforce (or service-users of colour).  I’ve commentated widely about how many Social Workers of colour feel unsupported during fitness to practice investigations.  Indeed, their statistical over-representations could lead practitioners to feel the current standards overtly  dominate and punish Social Workers of colour (very much like the brother in the KCMG image).  I believe, at best, the standards are non-racist, but they are most definitely NOT anti-racist.  Due to the omissions of ADP, AOP and ARP, I conclude that central aspects of the education, training and the professional standards in Social Work are inadequate and may currently be unfit for purpose.  Perversely, the standards can be perceived as tools being used to discriminate and oppress Social Workers of colour (and consequently service-users of colour).  However, I can only infer that the value of my opinions on this matter have about as much merit as the life of the unfortunate brother on the KCMG medal

My mentality is to carry on regardless.  My narrative reflects my lived experiences and those of people like me who are routinely judged, based on their skin colour.  I write this article from both personal and professional perspectives.  I use the terms ‘people of colour’ and ‘Black and Ethnic Minority people’ interchangeably for ease.  In my observations, I reiterate, I do not speak on behalf of all Black and Ethnic Minority people or Social Workers – as we are not a homogenous group.  I also do not want to be heard as the tokenistic ‘Black voice’ of my employer (BASW).  My writing here may not represent the views of the Association.  I’m one of many Black voices in the profession.  I realise that I’ve been ‘let in’ (to some extent) to express my views because (to quote the Black historian David Olusoga), I “won’t scare the horses.” 

For the record, I’m not aspiring to be a ‘nice guy’ when it comes to combating inherently racist regimes and systems. ‘Niceness’ is often weaponised against people of colour.  My motivation is for the cause, not applause – and the cause is Black Lives Matter.  This is a hearts and minds campaign.  I’ve previously commentated on how the legacies of slavery are not just outdated ideas; but are actually woven into the very fabric of modern society.  The prelude to my current thinking is outlined in my previous articles here: 1, 2, 3 & 4.  My narrative is a combination of fact, evidenced-based opinions, and solution-focused methods.  Consider this a comprehensive (and forensic) report from the forefront of ‘Anti-racism in Social Work’. 

The Wake-up Show

There is a big difference between being anti-racist and not wanting to be seen as ‘a’ racist.  Equally, there is a category of people, who are more scared of being labelled as racist, than they are of actually being racist. 

An individual (or organisation) that is anti-racist is much more likely to recognise why they themselves are potentially racist; understand how they have been socialised to be inherently racist and identify the benefits they receive from the existing racist structures.  Those embracing macho ‘anti-woke’ and ‘politically incorrect’ descriptors as laudable (even a ‘badge of honour’), seem unable (or unwilling) to view introspection, self-reflection or self-awareness as supreme personal qualities.  ‘White psychosis’ (as described by Kehinde Andrews) is expressed in strange ways. 

It’s a damning indictment on society, when to be described as ‘woke‘, or to be a ‘do-gooder’ or in any way ‘virtuous’ is considered derisory.  This defies my sense of logic and is ‘selective outrage’ to me.  Personally, I think it’s an important quality to want to “do good” for my fellow human beings and strengthen our societal interdependence. 

Perhaps you might want to challenge the next self-proclaimed ‘anti-woke’ advocate to actually define the word ‘woke’ during one of their blinkered monologues?  I suspect their logic will be laced with absurdities.  Some will cite the Commonwealth as a victory on race relations.  ‘Common’ ‘wealth’ for who?  Ah yes, possibly a Freudian slip in retrospect…  “Ignorance, allied with power, is the most ferocious enemy [social] justice can have.” (James Baldwin

My mantra is “pure, proactive and unapologetic anti-racism”, which underlines my militant spirit when it comes to ‘Anti-racism in Social Work’.  My mentality is influenced by the hostile environment inside and outside of Social Work.  I hope any readers resist the urge to ‘tone police’ my opinions.  My observations reflect my environment – the ‘hostile environment’.

If you are a White person reading this article, and my article seems brutal in places, then please consider whether YOU might be part of the problem and whether YOU should DO THE WORK to become a better person and ally!  Normalise changing your opinion when presented with new valid information – it is healthy.  So, if you describe yourself as ‘anti-woke’ or ‘anti-BLM’ and have no interest in changing that view, then for your own wellbeing, I suggest you stop reading now – as this article will be uncomfortable reading.  “There is no form of protest that is acceptable to racists” (Bernice King).

The profusion of complaints to the National Trust and Sainsbury’s about their attempts to promote racial equality indicates to me that the ‘anti-woke’ are content with the status quo.  Seemingly, they applaud the rise of White supremacy, as opposed to wanting to engage in progressive debates on racial equality and other forms of discrimination.

In my work, I’m able to act as an Anti-racism Visionary for Social Work across England.  I utilise different strategic approaches including: shock and awe; edutainment; collaboration and allyship.  My knowledge and expertise relates to anti-Black racism and developing support and protections for Social Workers of colour (and our allies).  I hope to continue working effectively with organisations, leaders and relevant stakeholders nationally to properly integrate the essence of anti-racism into Social Work at every level.  I genuinely want to engage and collaborate with authentic allies and professionals who want to improve the circumstances of Social Workers and service-users of colour.  Preferably, with people who are honest about where they (and their organisations) are at on their anti-racism journey. 

Patiently waiting

I am saddened by the inaction and silence (so far) from Social Work England (our national regulatory body) on anti-racism.  Since May 2020, I’ve reported widely on the significant deficits I observe within the profession and the wording of the regulatory standards.  I have highlighted the lack of protections and support for Social Workers of colour; cited their over-representation in fitness to practice panels and commentated on their disproportionately negative outcomes on Assessed and Supported Year in Employment programmes. The coverage and prominence of anti-racism in Social Work in recent months has been inescapable (since George Floyd’s murder).  The silence from the regulatory body of the profession (and MP’s) continues to perplex and concern me.  Furthermore, confidence is not instilled when the majority of the regulator’s workforce is predominantly White with no transparency about how this is being addressed or reversed.  This could be mistaken for ‘pigmentocracy vs meritocracy’.

In collaboration with colleagues and allies (inside and outside of BASW England), I’ve amplified the voices of Black and Ethnic Minority Social Workers in OUTLANDERS.  I’ve published an anti-racist Social Work framework and outlined readily deployable strategies.  I’ve developed a comprehensive ‘Anti-racism in Social Work’ presentation and delivered it at nearly 100 online events internationally (since May 2020).  I founded the BASW England Black & Ethnic Minority Professionals Symposium (BPS) (which is a multi-talented network of professionals across England).  I was joint winner of ‘Author of the Month’ in December 2020 for Social Work News magazine.  I’ve created a repository of anti-racism resources, which is utilised by thousands of Social Workers, organisations and stakeholders across the UK.  Here is my ‘Anti-racism in Social Work’ portfolio.  Despite my prolific work on ‘Anti-racism in Social Work’, I’m disheartened I have not been approached by the Social Work England (SWE) hierarchy or responsible Ministers to explore how my solutions to promote anti-racism within the profession might be attempted.  I fear losing any momentum we have.    

I remain patiently waiting for any opportunity to progress this work meaningfully.  Admittedly, I am crestfallen, because I do not want to interpret the lack of responsivity as denial and rejection of my knowledge, expertise and lived (personal and professional) experiences.  I hope the lack of communication is not pejorative. 

In my work role (in BASW England), I have proactively spearheaded the resurgence of anti-racism in Social Work.  Alongside the wide-ranging accomplishments of BASW colleagues and BASW members, numerous other activists and groups have also made strides in accelerating the ‘Anti-racism in Social Work’ movement in recent months.  These activists include: Anti-racist Activism (@SWAction21); Shabnam Ahmed (@schoolofshabs); Social Work Action Group (@SWactionuk); Claudia Crawley (@ClaudiaWPC); Black Social Matters (@Black_SocM); The Anti-racist Library (@AntiRacistLibr) and many others.  Anti-racism Lead Practitioners are now employed at Brighton & Hove and Sutton councils – which are fantastic appointments.  It’s positive to see new precedents being set in this regard.  I hope we can continue to be bold in pushing the anti-racism agenda forward in Social Work policy, practice and education.

The above fellow activists, allies and colleagues are at various stages of their Social Work careers and are based in wide-ranging settings; working towards a common goal – embedding ‘Anti-racism in Social Work’ and upholding social justice.  However, many of our endeavours are embryonic and need nurturing.  Support from Social Work leaders will be vital going forward.  The ‘Anti-racism in Social Work’ movement requires ALL Social Workers of colour and their allies to galvanise, strategise and mobilise bravely.  Collective action is resistance.  “Find your brave.”  Anyone who attended the OUTLANDERS virtual launch event knows exactly what I’m talking about.

I do not wish to appear populist or journalistic in my observations, but I genuinely do not know whether some of the senior personnel at SWE are aware of my work or are just ignoring it.  I would prefer transparency and to be told that my efforts are not in accordance with their perceived vision – if that is the case.   I recognise there are minefields and pitfalls in embedding anti-racism in Social Work.  However, my door has remained metaphorically wide open for months.  I hope to work collaboratively and effectively with those in charge of policy shifts wherever possible.

Those who finance, regulate, inspect and dictate the profession’s policies must do more than just be seen to acknowledge the advent of another social justice celebration.  Black History Month, Holocaust Memorial Day, LGBTQ+ History Month, International Women’s Day etc are often all met with bland blogs or unexciting position statements with woolly platitudes (if it all).  However, there is rarely accountability, substance or, more importantly – action.  What is beneath the veneer?  This tokenism is not just confined to anti-racism.  My intelligence feels insulted when I read comments like: “…our statement of intent and inclusion shows how [anti-racism] is part of our core business.”  How can that be, when no actual proof is presented or when ‘anti-racism’ is only mentioned (fleetingly) once in the entire document?  Personally, I will take the stockroom over the showroom any day.  This can easily be mistaken for brazen performative allyship.

So, to reiterate and summarise, what really is the level of commitment, motivation and intention from SWE on anti-racism?  I think any plans to address these matters ‘privately’ (like the Royal Family’s response to ‘Megxit’) will not set the right example for the profession.  I fear this would be a volley into the ‘long grass’.  Also, just so we are clear, suppressing racism does not mean racism does not exist. 

Sadly, to my knowledge, none of the ‘Anti-racism in Social Work’ activities that I’ve been involved in have generated endorsement or support from SWE.  I sent an open invitation to SWE to view an online presentation I was delivering at the Anglia Ruskin University on 25/03/21.  Unfortunately, I did not receive a reply.  I shared a draft version of this article (with my portfolio and presentation) with SWE to offer them the right to reply and/or shape the final version.  I received the following reply: “[We do not wish to make any comment at this point.]  We will continue our dialogue with the sector more broadly, as well as various representative groups within it, on all matters relating to equality, diversity, and inclusion (including anti-racism) as we continue to develop our work and approach. The strategic conversations we are involved with at a national level will also drive conversation and change.  Good luck with the article and your portfolio.”

Scything through the ‘long grass’

A Community Care article (from July 2020) cited the lack of ethnic diversity within the SWE workforce.  In a previous article, I queried whether this was being treated as a top priority.  I’ve had no response and (to my knowledge) there has been no news on this front.  For me, it’s also a concern that our regulator does not appear to have 1 designated Equality Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) Lead Officer.  I’m pleasantly surprised to read the Royal Family plan to recruit a ‘diversity tsar’.  My hope is this will be replicated swiftly in Social Work regulation.

Other Community Care articles (from February 2021 and March 2021), have reported on the “delays in fitness to practise processes having ‘life-changing impacts’” for the workers concerned.   Social Workers of colour are over-represented in these cases.  Therefore, it’s probably safe to assume they are the same unfortunate individuals being disproportionately affected by this.  Again, I’m unaware of any action being taken to remedy this.  We need transparency.  We must scythe through the ‘long grass’ to make any real progress.

I’m keen to ascertain the details about if/when/how these issues will be resolved.  I think it will be important that staff members responsible for EDI at SWE are well versed in the multi-layered complexities involved in fitness to practice investigations.  I’m pleased to see our regulator has developed a Professional Experts Panel and is appointing members with a solid background in social justice and workforce development.  However, I was unable to find any information about the panel members (including their backgrounds and careers in England, UK and overseas) on their website.  Again, I feel it is important that the panel can reflect with insight, the diverse range of backgrounds and experiences of those within the workforce.  Also, transparency about the panel’s membership would be welcome.  Obviously, I am keen to develop ’Anti-racism in Social Work’ in policy, practice and education.  My hope is that there will be scope for improved partnership working with BASW and myself on related matters.  I genuinely welcome any contact or indication of future plans I receive from our regulator.

Social work remains institutionally racist

Sir William Macpherson (RIP) coined the term ‘institutional racism’ in his report into the racially motivated murder of Stephen Lawrence.  Macpherson’s investigative report concentrated on the role of Metropolitan Police.  The report was ordered by the Home Secretary on 31/07/97.  In 2019, Ibram X Kendi published his book ‘How to be an Anti-Racist’.  Therein, he states he would relegate the term ‘institutional racism’, and instead, refer to ‘racist policies’.  I can understand and appreciate both positions and their contemporary relevance.  One of my previous articles evidenced some indicators of institutional racism in Social Work.  It received widespread agreement (and acclaim) from my peers.  However, sadly, it failed to generate any response from SWE, the institution responsible for policy changes in Social Work.

When I share my ‘Anti-racism in Social Work’ activities on Twitter, LinkedIn etc, I can only imagine the responses from those who do not contact me, who overlook my presence and ignore my polite requests.  Whatever one thinks about the use of such media platforms, they are an accepted method of modern communication.  From teens in their bedrooms, to the Whitehouse – it is the ‘new normal’! ‘Sound bites’, cliches and sassy one-line statements abound, I acknowledge they can be ‘reductivist’ and oversimplify issues sometimes.  However, notwithstanding those observations, I want to believe that SWE’s silence is not complicity with aspects of existing inequalities or oppression. 

My concerns are that until visible progress is made, Social Workers may construe this silence as ‘wilful blindness’.  In a world of ‘influencers’ and demi-god statuses set by ‘celebrities’ and TV personalities, dangerous opportunities exist to corrupt the truth.  I think the recent Piers Morgan’s demonstration of ‘White fragility personified’ (and Susannah Reid’s silent collusion) is one such corrupting and divisive episode.  It will be interesting to see if Mr Morgan resurfaces in a better situation for his career very soon.  This very public debacle basically weaponised and perpetuated the potentially damaging effects of lazy racism.  However, Mr Morgan’s career does not seem to have been harmed by such actions previously.  Time will reveal if my scepticism is unjustified.

I realise this article highlights connections between elements of society which for some people might not be easy to view as related.  I know some will passionately disagree.  I welcome constructive and intelligible debate.  I suspect that some people without colour, will lose interest and patience with ‘Anti-racism in Social Work’ eventually.  I realise that for some people without colour, the intricacies of language and terminology (BAME etc); ascertaining covert racism; demonstrating authentic allyship etc can all be extremely challenging and tiresome.  However, there are some simple dichotomies we can easily extract.  Anti-racism is about: Black liberation vs Black subjugation; allyship vs White supremacy; human rights vs inhumane violations.  The more ‘subjective opposites’ might be ‘right vs wrong’ and ‘good vs evil’.  What side are you on?  As with all subjective opinions, varied perspectives will arise and I’m open-minded enough to consider them.  Anti-racist values, ethics and objectivity within organisational policies can be achieved. 

On a more positive note, I’m pleased the Chief Social Workers for Adults and Children & Families have acknowledged their previous shortcomings on these matters and re-emphasised the importance of anti-racism.  Hopefully, this will involve the Workforce Race Equality Standards (WRES) being made mandatory and universal across the profession with a sense of urgency and supplemented by other national initiatives from key Social Work stakeholders and policy makers.

The OUTLANDERS anthology

OUTLANDERS: Hidden narratives from Social Workers of Colour, is an anthology of essays, stories, poems and other miscellaneous works – which I co-edited and compiled in collaboration with Siobhan Maclean.  I’m proud to have been involved with OUTLANDERS and the richness and uniqueness it exudes.  People have enquired whether I will profit from the book.  Definitely not!  The profits will go to the Social Workers Benevolent Trust (SWBT).  At the time of writing, the book has sold 1000 copies and raised £700 for the SWBT.  As far as I’m concerned, OUTLANDERS is a legacy piece of Social Work history and literature.  Siobhan and I’s ‘labours of love’ for OUTLANDERS is an eternal gift to the Social Work profession.

The anniversary of George Floyd’s murder

As the anniversary of George Floyd’s murder fast approaches (25/05/21), I want to gather intelligence and map the anti-racism activism that has taken place across Social Work.  I want to publish my findings and showcase the strides being made in the profession and spotlight where the ‘anti-racism deficits’ exist across the Social Work landscape nationally.  So, please email me with any ‘evidence’ you have, such as: articles, flyers, group activities, posters, virtual events, statements, updated guidance/policies/procedures etc to protect and support Social Workers of colour.  Just basically send me anything and everything your Social Work organisation has undertaken on anti-racism over the past several months!  Please contact me at wayne.reid@basw.co.uk or @wayne_reid79 (Twitter) to enable me to give your accomplishments a platform.  I’ll do whatever I can to promote organisations that are really serious about ‘Anti-racism in Social Work’.  The closing date for submissions is 14/05/21 at 5pm.

The iridescent flag of anti-racism

Consider this, has any Black human rights activist ever been welcomed by ‘the establishment’?  No.  The obstacles we face are simply just the latest manifestations of what people like me have battled continuously against throughout the ages.  My adversaries will probably try to assassinate me (or my character) at some point.  However, whilst there is air in my lungs, I will continue to educate, equip and empower Black and Ethnic Minority Social Workers and our allies.  Also, I will continue to mercilessly spotlight, shame and subvert opponents of ‘Anti-racism in Social Work’.  I suppose I’m like the proverbial ‘thorn of anti-racism’ in their backsides.  It’s the perfect antidote for ‘anti-wokism’.  Let the goodness flow! 

You can call me an ‘extremist’ if you want.  I admit, I’m extremely anti-racist.  Ultimately, my destiny is to see the iridescent flag of anti-racism flying high on the Palace of Silence – or die trying.

Let’s not forget, “when you’re accustomed to privilege, equality feels like oppression”. The only real enemy of progress is ignorance and ‘wilful blindness’.

Social justice must prevail.

‘One world, one race… the human race!’

As always, thanks for reading.

Teaching and Learning in International Schools: Lessons from Primary Practice

By Anssi Roiha and Eryn Wiseman

Why we wanted to write this book?

The number of international schools is constantly increasing and more and more teachers are working in this context. Despite this, there seems to be a paucity of resource books for teachers about international school pedagogy that provide a practical and accessible examination of effective pedagogy in this unique context. With this book we wanted to provide exactly that, a tangible and accessible resource with a wealth of practical examples for international educators throughout the world.

What does the book look like?

The book contains 13 chapters written by 29 experienced international educators. The chapters are divided into three parts, namely 1) cornerstones of effective teaching, 2) progressive pedagogical approaches, and 3) developing skills for the future. Part 1 includes chapters on student agency, collaboration and differentiation, part 2 on inquiry-based, concept-based and play-based teaching and learning and part 3, in turn, on computational thinking, multilingualism and intercultural competence

Each chapter first introduces you to the topic in question and then provides you with tangible and easy-to-use examples on how to apply the topic in your classroom practice. Tables, figures and summary boxes included in each chapter makes them easy to access and digest. Each chapter also finishes with a set of reflective questions, which, according to Kath Murdoch: “have the potential to guide some important conversations and prompt positive, professional growth.

Who is this book intended for?

The primary audience for the book is international educators wanting to update their practices and get fresh ideas to incorporate into their teaching. However, as Kath Murdoch said in her review of the book: “This book is a welcome contribution to the resources available not only to those who wish to pursue a career in International Education but to any beginning teacher or those simply wanting to refresh their thinking about how to apply contemporary practices to the classroom.” Therefore, pre-service teachers who are building their toolkit of best educational practices will also benefit from the book. 

Why should you buy this book?

Many educational books are heavy on theory and academic jargon. With this book we wanted to do the opposite, focus on practical and concrete examples from classrooms. Despite the strong focus on practice, the chapters are underpinned by a theoretical basis. 

In a nutshell, we want to highlight the following three main reasons why you should buy this book:

• It covers a variety of current topics that have wide-ranging appeal to both pre-and  in-service educators in many countries.

• It contains a wealth of practical examples and is easy to relate to as it is written by teachers for teachers.

• It is future-facing and offers insights into education in an international context.
Finally, in the words of Malcolm Nicolson, the director of Erimus Education: “This is a text that is much needed in national and international education.

Teaching and Learning in International Schools: Lessons from Primary Practice is now available in paperback, EPUB, kindle and PDF edition for just £24.99!

To get your copy, click the link below:

https://www.criticalpublishing.com/teaching-and-learning-in-international-schools

International Women’s Day and Critical Publishing

It feels appropriate to be writing something for International Women’s day this year, partly to celebrate our personal achievements but mostly to honour this year’s theme: #ChooseToChallenge. Critical Publishing was set up (and is run) by two women (Julia Morris and Di Page) nine years ago, and goes from strength to strength. We both have families and have both had careers in publishing since graduating in the 80s. Publishing at that time was full of eager young women yet dominated by male management. All these years on it is good to see those women in positions of influence and responsibility – although there is still more that can be done. As a member of the IPG (Independent Publishers Guild) we are connected to many strong and inspirational women within our profession.

Critical Publishing is not just a business and a way to earn a living for us. We are passionate about supporting the vocational professions – teachers, social workers, nurses, the police – that are so important to our world, as the Covid-19 pandemic has clearly highlighted. They are key in holding our society together, all high-stress professions subject to political whims and frequent changes in policy and legislation, requiring up to date, critical and informed publications. Many of the professions we publish for are also predominantly female and / or have had to fight to get their voices heard. We’re inspired by organisations such as WomenEd, a global grassroots movement which recognises and connects aspiring and existing women leaders in education. Through our books we – and our authors – recognise the need to portray these vocational professions accurately, encourage critical debate about controversial issues, celebrate their successes and challenge the systems when they don’t appear to be working. We may be a very small publishing company but we are lucky that many of our authors want to write for us because of our ethos and values.

As the needs of our specific markets have evolved, we have also developed both an overt and an embedded focus on mental health and well-being. For example, at the heart of the recruitment and retention crisis within education are the issues of both teacher resilience and the increasing demand on teachers to support the mental health of their pupils. The overstretched professions of social work and nursing are experiencing similar problems; and even the two business books that we have produced examine the issue of corporate emotional intelligence. Our Positive Mental Health and Business in Mind series both seek to speak openly about and address the conditions of anxiety and stress that are so prevalent today.

Being evidence-informed, we hope our books ‘choose to challenge’ assumptions and raise awareness around a whole range of really important topics in our chosen subject areas.

Find out more at www.criticalpublishing.com

Julia Morris, Director, Critical Publishing

#InternationalWomensDay

Social Work and Covid-19 by Denise Turner

A Review by Mary Mustoe

A useful and timely book which gives interesting perspectives on a number of aspects of social work during a pandemic. The sheer complexity of change and issues involved in managing remote working, student placements and personal commitments is explored through a number of focused chapters.

The strength of the book is the range of contributors and their perspectives. There are important considerations such as the current and future role of digital technologies from both the wider professional considerations to the impact on service users and students. 

Vulnerable groups such as unaccompanied refugees have been adversely impacted by so many of the restrictions of liberty which have been part of Government policy in response to Covid 19. Child protection work when the ability to visit and check on service users is a source of both professional and personal anxieties.

The role of frontline workers has been highlighted during the pandemic and these workers are also individuals with family and community ties which are also impacted. They are negotiating their own ways through this pandemic as professionals and as family members. 

Service user experiences are covered with some interesting perspectives on the growth of online support and self help. The tensions between independence and isolation encourage reflection and consideration of practice. Government policy around isolation and “vulnerability” has created a hierarchy of need which may not reflect peoples’ life experiences and wishes. End of life care and the impact of Covid on palliative care and the consequences for professionals and families bring home the pain being managed at this time. Poetry to assist in such reflection and self-care provides a valuable creative approach. 

The additional risks for those from BAME groups in terms of the virus is again explored on a structural and an individual basis. The experiences of students both from a Black African perspective and third year students make interesting reading highlighting many issues and questions for Universities, practice educators and agencies. 

Digital technologies are being used creatively and negatively and the use of these and the drawbacks as well as advantages are helpfully explored. There is a considerable future challenge for social work to be able to operate safely, ethically and effectively using resources which are often developed for other professions or more commercial usage. 

A thought provoking read. 

Available now in Paperback, EPUB, Kindle and PDF for just £14.99!

For more on Social Work and Covid-19 click here: https://www.criticalpublishing.com/social-work-and-covid-19

Tackling Anxiety in Primary Mathematics Teachers

by Karen Wicks

Why tackle mathematics anxiety?

The existence of mathematics anxiety in adults is well documented and considering how to support those who are anxious about the subject has been a focus throughout my career. Having worked as a primary class teacher, a head of mathematics in a middle school, and a local authority consultant, I have led professional development training for teachers, teaching assistants and head teachers. In my current role, as a Senior Lecturer at the University of Bedfordshire, I lead undergraduate courses in mathematics education and have supported trainee teachers in developing their skills to teach mathematics.

Throughout my career, I have encountered many enthusiastic and confident learners and teachers of mathematics, and I have enjoyed the perspective they bring to the classroom; however, what has always worried me is how to support those who feel anxious about learning mathematics and the impact this might have on their teaching. If adults working with children are anxious, this could be passed on to the children they work with. This has led me to carry out research within this field to identify, from the learners’ perspectives, what strategies might be employed to help develop their confidence.

Image from Welldoing.org

Who is the book for?

The book is intended to support teacher educators in developing the confidence of both trainee and practising teachers in learning and teaching mathematics. It is acknowledged that readers are likely to have begun to form their own philosophies of how to approach anxious learners and is intended to supplement and enhance these. 

What is in the book?

The early chapters of the book explore relevant theory related to mathematics anxiety and adult learners to include:

  • Mathematics anxiety – causes and manifestations.
  • The roles of social constructivism and connectivism
  • The specific needs of adult learners

The later chapters of the book introduce the research I carried out with undergraduates to identify strategies that helped them to develop their confidence in learning mathematics. This has led to the construction of a framework for supporting adult learners, specifically focussing on:

  • The role of the teacher – teaching characteristics
  • The role of the teacher – teaching strategies
  • The role of the learner

Each chapter includes practical guidance on how the framework might be applied and relevant resources to support the process. 

What next?

I maintain that learning about how to support and develop the mathematical confidence of those I work with is an evolving process. Despite having over 35 years of experience within the field of mathematics education, I am also still learning! If you would like to get in touch to discuss and share experiences, please do contact me (karen.wicks@beds.ac.uk ).  

Tackling Anxiety in Primary Mathematics is available 15 February in Paperback, EPUB, Kindle and PDF version for just £20.00! For more information or to get your copy, click here.

All Change: Best Practice for Educational Transitions by Rhiannon Packer is out now!

All Change: Best practice for educational transitions examines transitions within education – between year groups, key stages and schools – and how they can be managed and supported for the maximum benefit of the pupil. There is recognition that educational experiences can have a profound impact on both employability and future well-being.  

Beneath the political rhetoric is the need for a deepened understanding of how to develop lifelong learners, who can react positively to change and who can think critically, reflectively and independently. Supporting and managing transitions within the educational system lies at the heart of this and is therefore vitally important for all pupils.  

In an article published on The Conversation the author Rhiannon Packer tackles how to support children as they head into a new class.

The process of transition – moving from one class to another, such as from year one to year two, or from primary to secondary school – can have a significant impact on children. This year, they also have to deal with the effects of a global pandemic.

Our recent research has looked at good practice in supporting children and young people in these transitions. Many children are anxious or nervous about beginning in a new class or school.

Individual experiences

Our study explored experiences of transition in primary school by listening to the voices of individuals involved in the process: teachers, parents and children. We spoke with 16 teachers (primary school teachers, heads of year and special needs coordinators), interviewed 30 children in focus groups and distributed 150 questionnaires to parents and caregivers.

Transition, if not managed carefully, can affect a child’s social and emotional development, potentially with long lasting educational implications. It can mean that they struggle interacting with peers and teachers socially, and do less well academically.

The children in our research mentioned concerns which included being able to find their way around the new setting, making friends, meeting new teachers and coping with school work.

For children moving from one class to another, a process of familiarisation should usually start at the end of the previous school year, and include moving up days – where pupils spend time in the new classroom or secondary school – starter packs with information about the setting or class, and meetings with the new teacher.

However, the pandemic will have disrupted these activities. Schools have compensated by using online methods such as key teachers introducing themselves on film, opportunities for virtual visits of the new setting, and virtual question and answer sessions.

Tailoring the support provided in the transition process is particularly important for children with special educational needs. For example, children nervous about finding their way around a busy setting could, if possible, visit the school at the end of the school day when it is quieter. Further visits to meet individual teachers working with the learner can also be organised.

Photo from TechRepublic https://tek.io/39Y21Ih

Supporting children

For any transition, whether starting school for the first time or moving from one school year to another, good communication and understanding the needs of everyone involved is very important. Teachers should talk to parents and caregivers about the move into a new class, as this means parents can reinforce positive messages to children about their new school environment.

Parents need to listen to their children, giving them opportunities to discuss the return to school – what they are looking forward to as well as what they might be concerned about. This will be particularly important this year, and children should feel confident to express thoughts and feelings about school with their teacher and parents.

Our research found that new parents welcomed opportunities to make contact with teachers, at information evenings and by using social media. We found that teachers were receptive to the needs of learners, reflected upon their transition activities and amended as necessary. This school year, this flexibility is bound to be more important than ever.

For the full article, click here!


In the article Transition: Voices from across the bridge, with the British Education Studies Association Rhiannon Packer and Amanda Turner explore the ways transition can be seen as a complex process no matter what your age and how it is an experience common to all. 

As an example, consider children who become upset on returning to school after a break – they may have seemed settled and happy before the holiday, but the transition from home to school can be unsettling. Transition needs to be viewed as ongoing, aligning itself with life course theory (Hutchison, 2011). Hutchinson acknowledges that the time between transitions is as important as the process itself. This was a consideration apparent in the voices of practitioners in our research.

Transitions are complex and it is important to ensure in planning that the individual needs of the learner are considered, as negative experiences can have an impact. This is acknowledged by Donaldson (2015) in his proposal to reduce the number of educational transition points in the Welsh curriculum. Research on transition has focused primarily on pupil voice with little discussion on how practitioners view transition processes and practice (Cuconato, du Bois-Reymond and Lunabba, 2015). We felt hearing the voices of a range of stakeholders involved in transition was important to understand better how to ensure a smooth process for learners. We gathered the voices from 11 settings (private nurseries to FE colleges) throughout South East Wales; learners (3-19), practitioners and parents/caregivers all participated.

For the full article, click here!

All Change: Best practice for educational transitions is now available in Paperback, EPUB, Kindle and PDF version for just £16.99! For more information or to get your copy, click here.

Tackling Anxiety in Primary Mathematics Teachers

by Karen Wicks

Adults often have a love-hate relationship with mathematics like marmite- but those feelings come from previous success or failure with the subject. Karen tackles those with less than positive concerns about the subject head-on. Karen Wicks has produced a thorough review of the issues around mathematics anxiety for adult learners’ intent on teaching. This carefully structured text will be helpful for anyone teaching mathematics to initial teacher training students. Karen’s book is based on her detailed doctoral studies and her experience of teaching this group of students. The links to further reading will provide any lecturer with recommendations to develop their own knowledge of this aspect of teaching mathematics.

Mary Briggs, Principal Lecturer and Programme Lead for Childhood and Education (ECS and Ed Studies) at Oxford Brookes University

We are excited to announce that Tackling Anxiety in Primary Mathematics Teachers will be available February 15 in Paperback, EPUB, Kindle and PDF for just £20.00!

For more, click below!

https://www.criticalpublishing.com/tackling-anxiety-in-primary-mathematics-teachers

We are so excited to announce…

How to Thrive at Work, Mindfulness, Motivation and Productivity is out today!

By Stephen J Mordue

An essential read for anyone experiencing low level anxiety or stress, this book pulls together the various individual strands of business logic, scientific research, self-care, spirituality and common sense to provide a one-stop guide to thriving at work.

From the fundamental principles of self-care, all the way through to maintaining motivation once you have it, Stephen applies the experience he has gained from 19 years as a social work practitioner, lecturer and team manager, to give a comprehensive guide to getting the best out of your work life.

You will see as we go through the various chapters of the book that developing a mindful way of approaching things is crucial. This is nothing scary. Mindfulness is simply being able to focus yourself in the moment to the exclusion of everything else. All of the things I’ll talk about will help you develop this way of being. Because mindfulness is just that. It’s not a thing you do it’s a way you ‘are’. We shall see that mindfulness fuels motivation, and that a range of self-care activities and ‘being-organised’ techniques beat procrastination and keep you moving forward. This is an idea for work but also for things beyond work so that we can have productive lives whatever we are doing. It’s a whole life approach.

Introduction: mindfulness, motivation and productivity

1. Self-care: the fundamental principles

To mention a few, this chapter explores the theory, basic principles and context of self-care:

‘When identifying solutions to work related stress, interestingly, respondents in Marc and Osvat’s (2013) research cited solutions to the problem as being outside of the workplace – for example, movement therapy, family support, conversations with colleagues and friends, walks and unplanned vacations.’

2. Rest: don’t just do something

Rest can feel counter-intuitive when we are trying to be productive, instead, Stephen looks at its essential role in workplace productivity and therefore workplace well-being.

‘Rest is essential as it generates two other ‘r’s’, recovery and recuperation. For those of us working in the knowledge and information roles that dominate workplaces, or creative roles that are essential in the economies we labour in, then our ‘legs’ are our brains. We need to rest effectively to recover our psychological capacity in the same way Hoy rests for a physical recovery.’

3. Sleep: nutrition for the mind

This chapter addresses the importance of sleep for thriving at work, covering its various elements, including: the language of sleep, getting to sleep, the quantity vs quality argument, the impact of sleep on productivity, the benefits of routine and the impact of external influences such as alcohol and caffeine.

4. Nutrition: the impact of what you eat and drink

The focus in this chapter is less on calories in and calories out and more on the impact that what you eat has on your well-being overall and, as a consequence, your productivity.

5. Exercise: how moving more means you do more

Deep dives into the known benefits and variables of exercise. Areas of this chapter include: addressing the question of what do we mean by exercise, and how much should we do? Considers the psychological benefits of exercise, the impact of stress on our motivation to exercise, and what types of exercise work best.

6. Mindfulness, meditation and reflection: giving yourself space

This chapter covers mindfulness topics including spirituality, the cognitive triangle, the origins of mindfulness, awareness, breathing and living in the present, to name a few.

7. Being organised to fuel productivity: how do you know what you need to do and how do you do it?

Diary management, prioritising, planning ahead and thinking work tasks through is not common sense and people have varying degrees of skill in these areas. These skills are crucial in managing in any workplace. We have to balance the competing needs of our organisation, and often other organisations, while trying to meet deadlines and be focused and ‘in the moment’. More than this I feel we’ve lost the ability to plan. We live in a world where many things are available in an instant.

8. Finding your motivation mojo: making a start’s the hardest part

Looks at impacting factors such as procrastination, self-determination theory and extrinsic and intrinsic motivation .

Motivating yourself to get started – or ‘making a start is the hardest part’, as I’m fond of saying to my wife,
which doesn’t annoy her at all – can be difficult.

9. Maintaining the thrive state

The most crucial part of productivity is consistency, here Stephen offers tips for how to keep up the momentum so that we can implement positive changes for the long-term.

How to Thrive at Work will be available in Paperback, Kindle, EPUB and PDF for just £14.99 on Friday 15 January 2021 here! – https://www.criticalpublishing.com/how-to-thrive-at-work

#work #career #job #business #office #worklife #selfcare #mindfulness #wellbeing #careerprogression