UK (Oxford Brookes University) Oxford Brookes Social Work Team Awarded Silver at Social Work of the Year Awards

The Social Work team at Oxford Brookes University have been awarded ‘silver’ at the Social Worker of the Year Awards in recognition of their work to create a decolonised, anti-racist social work programme.

The team were finalists in the University of the Year category which acknowledges universities who are ‘providing outstanding and effective social work education for their students’.

Over the last six years, the Social Work team aimed to address structural inequalities that lead to degree awarding gaps and poorer experiences for BAME students, especially African / Afro-Caribbean students, through their project entitled ‘Creating an anti-racist university experience’.

The team implemented a number of measures to broaden the team’s ethnic and cultural diversity, and reconstruct the curriculum to draw on knowledge, research and best practice that is rooted in diversity.

The project also saw the successful development of a student advisory group self-called the ‘Global Majority Collective’. The group involves 25 BAME social work students who meet regularly to discuss their experiences and what they think needs to be changed on the programme. The teaching staff encourage the group to critically review the curriculum and teaching approach, and reverse mentor staff.

Jill Childs, Principal Lecturer and Programme Lead of Social Work at Oxford Brookes University, who led and inspired the work said: “We are thrilled that our focus on anti racism at Oxford Brookes continues to be commended.

“Through learning, reflection and collaboration, we embarked on a challenging journey to produce a programme that no longer privileges Anglo-American approaches to teaching, learning, and social work practice.

“By offering culturally sensitive teaching, we additionally aim to equip our graduates with better skills for a difficult profession that is vital for supporting a wide range of communities.

“We are now looking at ways the work can be used to continue to solve challenges faced by students in higher education, such as overcoming issues of access, representation and participation, challenge racism and create a wider sense of belonging for students.”

Jill and the team will now build on the success of their anti-racism work by focusing on issues such as challenging racism and using collectivist ideas such as Ubuntu, meaning ‘I am because we are’. The principles of Ubuntu inform global initiatives in the Social Work sector and help shape work by bringing people together to achieve a common goal.

The Social Worker of the Year Award is the latest in a series of awards received by the Oxford Brookes Social Work team, in recognition of their work on anti-racism.

This year, the team won the Collaborative Award for Teaching Excellence by Advance HE and the University Alliance Innovation Award. Last year, the team received an HE Innovate award which recognises new and innovative ways developed by academics to teach and support their students.