D&G social worker is top student in Scotland

Laura McHarrie, a social worker with Dumfries and Galloway Council, has won the Andrew Cornwell Memorial Award for the highest performing graduate in the Open University’s social work programme in Scotland.

Laura was presented with a certificate and book token in the Chamber at Council Headquarters, English Street, Dumfries, by Rosanna Ware, regional education manager, Open University.

Rosanna said: “Congratulations to Laura on her outstanding performance during her social work honours degree course. We’re delighted to present her with the Andrew Cornwell Award in recognition of her efforts. Laura’s achievements are testament to the fantastic partnership that we have with Dumfries and Galloway Council, which allows individuals to gain their OU degree and professional qualification while they are in work.”

Councillor Stephen Thompson, chair of the Social Work Committee, said: “Laura’s achievement is an inspiring example. We know that social workers do incredibly valuable work, and under a range of pressures, but don’t always get the recognition they deserve. It’s wonderful to see one of our social workers earning this award from the Open University for such high performance.”

Councillor David McKie, vice chair, said: “Social workers can make so much positive difference in the lives of some of our most vulnerable people. I’m very pleased to see one of our social workers being recognised for outstanding commitment to learning and best practice.”

Having achieved a BA [Honours] in Social Work, Laura is now working in criminal justice, based in Stranraer. She said: “My journey towards the social work degree began in 2009, with the support and encouragement of Dumfries and Galloway Council’s Youth Justice Team, where I worked as a Social Work Assistant. Gaining the degree has been no easy feat, starting off with finding out I was pregnant 2 days into my first module and sitting my first exam 3 days past my due date. Taking a year out to get used to motherhood and becoming a single parent, I started my second module in 2011 enabling me to complete the first year of the degree programme. I took a further year off study before starting the second year of the degree, which I completed over a two year period, again with the support of the Youth Justice Team. The flexibility of Open University learning was essential for me during these early stages of juggling family life, work and study as it allowed me to work at a pace to suit my individual circumstances. In 2015, I was successful in gaining a social work studentship with Dumfries and Galloway Council, in collaboration with the Open University, to complete the final 2 years of the degree programme. The studentship allowed me to continue to work in paid employment and provided the 2 placements required to complete the degree. The support provided by family, friends, Dumfries and Galloway Council, and the Open University was gratefully received as it certainly wasn’t an easy task to balance the various demands of this process. Without the flexibility of the Open University structure and the studentship provided by Dumfries and Galloway Council, due to my personal circumstances, I would never have been able to gain a social work degree . In 2017, 8 years after beginning my journey with the Open University, I finally qualified as a social worker with first class honours. This was a surprise in itself but I was astonished to win the Andrew Cornwell Memorial Prize, havning to read the e-mail from the Open University several times before I could comprehend being the highest performing graduate on the social work degree course in Scotland. Despite a lot of self-doubt over the past 8 years, achiveing my degree and this prize are evidence that hard work, dedication and commitment pays off. I’d like to thank everyone who helped me along my journey. I now look forward to a long career in social work with Dumfries and Galloway Council.”

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