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 (pictured left, centre) was presented with a certificate and book token in the Chamber at Council Headquarters in Dumfries by Rosanna Ware, regional education manager at The Open University.
Rosanna (pictured far left) 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.
Her journey towards the social work degree began in 2009, with the support and encouragement of Dumfries and Galloway Council's Youth Justice Team, where she worked as a Social Work Assistant.
Laura said: “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.
“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.
“Despite a lot of self-doubt over the past 8 years, achieving 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."
The Andrew Cornwell Memorial Prize is awarded annually by The Open University in memory of Andrew Cornwell, the inaugural Head of the University’s Diploma in Social Work programme.
It recognises the highest performing graduate on each of the University’s undergraduate social work degrees [in Scotland, England, and Wales] based on a combination of overall academic performance and end of module assessment.
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