Kelly Tighe

Department of Social Work and Social Care

Contact details

School of Social Policy
University of Birmingham
B15 2TT

Kelly is a Lecturer and registered Social Worker specialising in work with children, young people and families. She teaches on Pre-Qualifying and Post Graduate Social Work programmes within the School of Social Policy, leads the Department for Social Work and Social Care’s Student Staff Forum, is a member of the Welfare, Inclusion and Social Engagement Committee and Anti-Racist Curriculum Project group

She works from relationship-based, systemic frameworks with emphasis on co-ordinated communication.  Her teaching interests include child and adolescent development, trauma informed practice, narratives and meaning making, life story work, critical reflection, theories, methods and skills.

Feedback and office hours

Full Time; Monday to Friday.  Contact her by email in the first instance to set up an appointment.


  • Post Graduate Certificate in Higher Education – University of Birmingham
  • Dyadic Developmental Psychotherapy Level One – DDP Network
  • Post Graduate Diploma Systemic Supervision for Multiagency Contexts – Institute of Family Therapy
  • Post Graduate Diploma with Distinction Children Young People, Families and Carers – University of Birmingham
  • MA Social Work with Distinction – University of Birmingham
  • BA (hons) Childhood Studies 1st Class – University of Leeds   


Kelly joined the Department of Social Work and Social Care in November 2019, bringing significant experience from voluntary and statutory social work settings, supporting and intervening when neglect, emotional, physical and sexual abuse has caused children and young people serious harm.  As a social worker and social work manager (14 years), she has worked with children and adults presenting with substantial needs, undertaken a range of child, family and caregiver assessments and managed risks of varying degree in partnership with the Police, Probation, Psychiatry, Mental Health, Education and Paediatrics. She has knowledge and skills in the core children and families specialisms, including Child Protection, Public Law Proceedings, Children in Care, Adoption and Fostering and has written agency policy, procedure and guidance for Children’s Services, influencing local practice.

Over time, Kelly has developed specialist skills in “direct work” with children and young people, making use of training in Theraplay, Therapeutic Life Story Work and Dyadic Developmental Psychotherapy, which led to a specialist project that designed a practice framework for life story work with children and young people. She has also led an international social work exchange programme, between the cities of Birmingham, Hamburg and Chicago, which served to compare and contrast social work policy and practice. Having worked extensively with children, young people and adults affected by early childhood experiences and social inequality, she is focused on prevention, supporting recovery to ensure future well-being, and human rights.

Her motivation for teaching social work is to facilitate the intellectual, social, emotional and moral growth of students, to develop them beyond the neoliberal role of procedural technician and ensure that they disseminate and implement their learning in a way that enhances the wider communities to which they belong, in both personal and professional terms. She is committed to ensuring that the social work curriculum at the University of Birmingham, and her teaching approach, not only complements the modes of contemporary practice, but enacts its methodologies, providing students with direct experience of social work ways of being, knowing and doing. She would like students to leave the course understanding more about themselves in context and in conversation, to work in theoretically sound, evidence informed, critical ways; to be robust enough to hold on to their values and ethical selves, to withstand the forces of conservative austerity, and keep sight of the profession’s core function; social justice.


  • BA Social Work (Theories Methods and Practice and Psychology for Social Work)
  • MA Social Work (Skills, Values and Approaches, Development Across the Life Course, Theories Methods and Practice)
  • Step Up (Skills, Values and Approaches, Development Across the Life Course, Theories Methods, Practice and Advanced Practice)
  • Practice Education 1

Other activities

Since 2014, she has championed the Tri City Social Work Exchange (between Birmingham, Chicago and Hamburg) as a concentrated, cost effective, unique learning experience, operating as the lead for Children's Services in Birmingham from 2016 to 2019.  The Exchange brings together practitioners, strategic leads, politicians and academics to share perspectives on contemporary social work issues.  As a participant, she has presented to international audiences on managing Child Abuse in the UK and by request, other subjects such as the Prevent agenda.