As I start to write this blog I realise there is so much about me that is already on the internet. So, you can find out things about my reflections about teaching and learning here in a blog I wrote as part of my postgraduate academic practice certificate. If you venture to read that blog, you will discover elements of my character and history. These days my ever chatty nature leads me to love Twitter, as you will see if you visit here. The life I experience now, is vastly different from my very humble beginnings living in an impoverished area of Manchester. I missed a lot of primary and secondary education and it was only a fluke that enabled me to go to college. I left home aged 18years and was self sufficient from that time. Well almost, at times without money and occasionally without sufficient food. But struggling to survive and make ends meet was familiar to me.
I sometimes remark that I was born a social worker; the eldest of six children I quickly learned to be responsible and to develop skills that met the needs of others. From 1985, I worked as an unqualified social worker in children’s homes until in 1995 I completed the diploma of social work at the University of Salford. There is not enough space to explain what those years of experience gave me. However, I will share with you that, although I have never had children, there exist in the world people who think of me as their mum. That never fails to make my heart swell, with both joy and sadness, for them and for me.
My career progressed into working in child protection teams, before later working for the children and family court advisory and support service (CAFCASS). The final ten years of my career were spent acting as an expert witness for the family courts. Despite my social work skills and knowledge, I tried and failed to complete a degree on two occasions. However, in 2006 I embarked on a five year journey with the Open University and was awarded a first class honours degree in psychology. This was such a boost to my confidence that I went on to achieve a MSc in family and child psychology (with distinction) in 2012. For me, this was a huge achievement. I was in my 40’s and the first person in my family to go to university. The urge to learn continued and I embarked on a phd. In truth, I didn’t really quite know what a phd was, but I saw no reason why I couldn’t get one. I am now close to finishing my thesis, which explores the lived experience of prospective adoptive parents. This time next year, I will be Dr Peach and will become a chartered psychologist with the British Psychological Society.
My social work values are embedded in my role as an academic. I was delighted to lead the team which analysed the needs of the people of Rotherham following the publicised concerns about the sexual exploitation of children in the town. I am currently involved in other important projects which aim to combat the abuse of children. I firmly believe that ordinary people like me can make a difference. Ordinary people like me, with support and opportunity, do extraordinary things. I have even found myself published in the Conversation and the Independent newspapers. But, I also like to have fun and spread joy, particularly raising spirits and funds in my Christmas costumes.
Life is about continual learning. Sometimes this is recognising we each have a voice, and we can, indeed we must, make a stand against social injustice. My passion remains to make a meaningful difference in the world, and let me tell you, if Donna Peach from Higher Openshaw can do it, then so can you.
Donna Peach, Lecturer in Social Work