I was on a crowded bus headed home when I got the call. ‘We’re pleased to offer you…’ I was so happy I didn’t even hear the rest: I’d been offered a place in the second Frontline cohort.
I’d heard about Frontline, a new charity that recruits and develops social workers, from a friend’s mum. She’s a social worker and emailed me as soon as she saw the programme, saying, ‘you have to apply for this!’
I spent so much time preparing for the various stages of the interview process – I even went and met with one of the professors whose research helped shape the programme.
The only downside to this exciting opportunity was that I would need to leave my existing job. I was working as a teaching assistant on the special needs inclusion team at Ark Globe Academy. I loved the energy and buzz I got working at Globe. The whole ethos of the school – preparing students for university and to be leaders – really drew me in.
As a teaching assistant, I worked mostly with year 9 and 10 students. I worked closely with a group of five students, helping monitor their progress. I was really inspired by my work with one student in particular. When he joined Globe in year 9, it was his first time in full-time education. He’d suffered from a chronic illness, so whenever he was in school, he was always so excited to be there. Although he struggled with basic English, he was so dedicated and willing to learn. It was lovely being able to support him through his education.
I can honestly say my team at Globe was the most amazing team I had ever worked with. Everyone was focused on what we were doing for the children and whether we were serving them best.
But the thing I loved most about my job as a teaching assistant was the one on one interaction with students, where you really get to know the young people well. That’s what drew me to social work: the opportunity to get close to a family and to help them help themselves to make a change. So while I knew I would miss the students, I was so excited to have been accepted onto the Frontline programme.
I was nervous to tell my boss at Globe that I was leaving. But, I’d learned while researching Frontline that it was also a part of the Ark network. I became a part of Ark while working at Globe – so really, I wasn’t leaving, I was just joining a different part of the family. Thankfully, the Head of Inclusion at Globe agreed and wished me the best.
I’m now several months into my Frontline training. After an intensive five week summer institute, I’ve started work in Tower Hamlets in east London. I’m a Student Social Worker and at the moment, I’m working with four families. So far, the hardest part is switching off. It’s easy to take the work home with you, but it’s also important not to become callous and cold. I’m still working on finding that balance.
Luckily, Frontline is an incredibly supportive environment. Once a week, I meet with other Frontline participants to discuss our cases, think about what we might do next, look at new ideas, and then decide on our actions going forward. I’ve grown so much since starting Frontline. I’m always thinking about how I can see a situation differently and constantly evaluating my own values and questioning my point of view.
Just like at Globe, there’s a buzz with Frontline as well. We all want to make a difference and we’re all playing an important role. The other day, I had to call a school to get a report on a child. Because of my time at Globe, I knew exactly who I needed to speak to and what resources would be available. I also better understand the pressures that the school and the teachers are under, which I think makes me more effective in building the important relationships with my students’ schools.
Ark’s mission is to transform the lives of young people. I feel really passionate about that mission and believe that my time at Globe and what I’m learning now at Frontline are preparing me to make that mission my life’s work.