The school social worker: ‘If you think you've got it tough, try doing my job'
I know teachers are busy. I see it every day. But what teachers often don’t understand is that I am under just as much pressure as they are, that my working hours are just as unruly, that I see my family and friends just as rarely.
Every day, I am in a different place. Every school has different needs and I have to adapt to meet those daily. You differentiate your lessons and plan them extensively – I differentiate my visits and plan them extensively.
On an average morning, I will set the alarm for 6am. I will make coffee, which is often the only opportunity I have during a day to make a drink unless a very kind teacher offers to make me one (I love those teachers).
I will then drive to my first school by 8:15am. I normally meet with headteachers or designated safeguarding officers and sort out any immediate issues. I quickly established within the first two months of being a social worker that no matter the amount of planning, it's irrelevant, as you can guarantee the plan will always change.
Parent meetings, student meetings and meetings with teachers run well into lunchtime. By midday, I look at my to-do list and realise none of it has been covered. I am aware that there are things that I need to do, but other things have taken priority. That’s the nature of the job.
In the past four years, I have probably taken proper lunch breaks fewer times than my number of fingers and toes. If I manage to eat at lunchtime, it is normally while speaking to a young person, teacher or parent.
I squeeze in some time to write up casenotes from the morning, before running a parenting course in the afternoon. I rush from there to complete some unannounced visits to check on families on the Child Protection register.
Then it is back to the school for a debrief with the headteacher. If I am lucky, I will be setting off for home by 5:30pm.
Dinner? I grab something while I take out my to-do list and start to move through it. But no matter how late I work, it never seems to get shorter. I can never get ahead as every day, more gets added to it.
I get to bed in the early hours.
I am not complaining about being busy. I enjoy being busy. The fast pace of the job is something I actually like. But sometimes I think schools and teachers are unaware of how busy it can be.
This is the second blog in a weekly series by a social worker who works exclusively with schools. She is a former teacher. You can read the first blog here.