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Our social work lecturers share how their experiences enhance your degree at Bath

Dr Alinka Gearon and Jo Davis talk about their social work careers, and why studying at Bath is a good option for aspiring social workers.

In the words of BSc (Hons) Social Work and Applied Social Studies graduate Gabriel Alves: “one of the best things about Bath was the quality of the lecturers. They’re still actively producing research; some are still actively working in social work.”

Because of this, we want to tell you a little more about the background of a few of our current staff members. After all, their experience feeds directly into the BSc (Hons) Social Work and Applied Social Studies course.

We spoke to Dr Alinka Gearon and Jo Davis about their careers in the sector, what inspired them to become social workers, and how they bring their expertise to the course. They also share their opinions on what makes Bath a great place to study.

What made you want a career in social work?

Jo: I was initially in the medical world, in various guises, but I was always drawn to social work.

I was volunteering for victim support and domestic abuse; and I always worked with people who were bereaved, living with addiction, or had been given horrible diagnoses. No one else seemed to know what to do to help these people or how to speak to them.

I then trained to do counselling and did a psychology course, which led me to think ‘where am I going next?’ It was through a careers advisor that I ended up doing an access course, then my social work degree.

Alinka: I worked with social workers in children and families as an administrator. I was inspired by some really good social workers, and the work they were doing, and got interested in how to further a career in children and families.

The senior practitioner encouraged me to apply for a social work degree, because they could see my interactions with people were sound and I could make a difference.

What brought you to Bath?

Alinka: I was a mature student with a young family, so I looked for a social work course in my area that I could commute to. Bath was a good fit for those reasons, but it was the research quality that was the most important deciding factor for me. The interview day was such a positive experience; it made Bath the place I wanted to come to.

It was clear to me that the lecturers were deep into their research areas, and that this informed their teaching. I was advised to look at whether the lecturers had practice experience or were engaged with social work research, so it was the close links to practice that attracted me, too. I didn’t see this at all universities I looked at.

I knew I had made the right choice coming to Bath and my first-class degree opened doors I never expected. With my continued passion for working with children and families, and my new qualification, I went into frontline child protection practice and gained experience working with children and families very closely.

The course also increased my interest in research; I never truly understood what research was about before. The opportunity arose to do both research and social work, so I applied to do a Master’s in Research (MRes) degree, which led to a PhD in social work, and here I am today.

Jo: I worked predominantly in adult care and gained a lot of experience, which took me into practice education (assessing students while they're on placement), and then on to specialist palliative care. That’s when I came to Bath to do my master’s degree in Death and Society.

For family reasons, I took up the offer of a job at a local authority and was the organisation development consultant for all things social work. This included social work development; overseeing training of experienced social workers and newly qualified social workers on their assessed and supported year of employment (ASYE) programme; practice education for student placements; and setting up ‘step up to social work’ partnerships with other local authorities across Poole, Dorset, Wiltshire and Bournemouth.

As part of the role, I got to work very closely with my predecessor at the University of Bath, supporting the delivery of the Managing Practice Learning (MPL) course at the University. Then the job came up at Bath and I was asked to apply, so I did and here I am six years on!

How does all your past experience benefit the social work students at Bath?

Jo: It’s been fantastic to draw on all those contacts I made across the whole of the South West from councils in Bristol, Gloucester, Somerset, South Gloucester, Bath, Swindon, Wiltshire, Dorset, Poole, Bournemouth.

Because I have so many contacts across all those networks, we have many partnerships and a great student practice placement offering. Of course, they are constantly changing, and you have to keep updated, but that’s about knowing the right people to contact for the benefit of Bath students.

I am also still a current practice educator. It’s important to keep up-to-date with what is going on in practice now to know what it’s like for students on placement and the skills they need.

Alinka: The quality of the teaching on my undergraduate degree at Bath meant it was a no-brainer for me to go anywhere else for my postgraduate studies. That gave me the aspiration to eventually work here.

As a lecturer, I can draw on my experiences as a Bath student and as a child protection social worker. I think this is a great benefit for current students.

Are there any more words of advice you would like to offer prospective students?

Jo: Because we are smaller, and because we have such good relationships with all our partner agencies, our students will have practice placements that are well organised and delivered consistently as scheduled.

This is not always the case at other institutions.

Alinka: And you will be supported; you are not going to be left to it and there is no reason to be nervous about your placement.

In your first year, we will teach you the skills you need so you will feel well-prepared. When on placement, you will have your personal tutor supporting you, as well as your practice supervisor and your practice educator.

Are you interested in studying BSc (Hons) Social Work and Applied Social Studies at Bath?

Find out more about this course