Lisa Wood, 47 from Stafford, became the first member of her family to complete a degree after beginning her higher education journey nine years ago.
Lisa embarked on a degree in Sociology, Criminology and Deviance at Staffordshire University alongside her day job as an Education Inclusion Officer at Staffordshire County Council. Now, she has a new role leading a county-wide scheme to prevent students being excluded from schools using relational and restorative practice.
Lisa explained: “I began a course with the Open University but it didn’t suit my needs and I wanted more face-to-face content. I saw the Sociology, Criminology and Deviance course and I just knew it was the one for me. It was a very different course to what I’d been studying but it was so linked to do the work that I do.
“Covid had a real impact on the mental health of young people, where they’ve struggled at school as a result of sustained periods of isolation.
“There are still young people dealing with the consequences of lockdown and we are working hard to help schools support pupils so they feel settled.”
While studying part-time, Lisa began working on a pilot project for the Local Authority around relational and restorative practice and dedicated her dissertation to analysing its impact.
“The project focussed on helping pupils who are permanently excluded to get back into schools and education. This involves supporting schools when there’s been some harm or conflict to try and maintain educational placements for children and young people.
“I knew before I went into the project that I would be analysing it as we went along and my dissertation supervisor Sarah Page gave me lots of information, advice and guidance on how to do that.”
Lisa’s analysis demonstrated the positive impact of the project including improved attendance, attainment and well-being. Thanks to the pilot’s success, Lisa now has a new role as a Relational and Restorative Practice Co-ordinator and will be joined by five new team members to develop the project and roll it out across the whole of Staffordshire.
Lisa explained: “The project I’m doing now is focussed on children with a child protection plan, a child in need plan or children who have been previously looked after.
“We go in with a view to sitting all parties around a table and talking around what’s happened, how people are feeling about what’s happened and how we need to move that forward. It is a very formalised process but it’s done in a way that gives everyone a voice including the children and young people who’ve been excluded.”
Despite the challenges of working and studying at the same time, Lisa completed her degree and graduated in Stoke’s Kings Hall last month alongside 1,200 fellow graduates.
Lisa said: “There were points when I could have happily given up, where I was thinking “I can’t see the finish line” and I have to say that Sarah Page was phenomenal. She really encouraged me and supported me to carry on and really dig in.
“When you’re a single parent as well, that adds a different dimension. I think that’s another part of what has kept me going, my children are so proud that I’ve finally managed to graduate and I’ve finally been able to come and have some recognition of my achievements.”
She added: “It’s really emotional. It’s a massive journey and I’ve grown so much. I look at my own practice and it has really evolved and has way more of a theoretical underpinning. I just feel that it’s been the best thing ever.”
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