My take on Sir Martin Narey’s recommendations

06 Mar

There are several things in the education review undertaken by Sir Martin Narey that I would like to address; however, I would like to begin with the recommendations.

There needs to be a concise, single document drafted, drawing on the advice of the College of Social Work, academics and, particularly employers, which offers in a single publication, a GMC style summary of what a newly qualified children’s social worker needs to understand.

 I don’t wholly disagree with this. However, I believe it can be a short document about what a Children’s  Social Worker is expected to do. This would benefit not only Social Work students and Newly qualified Social Workers but also international Social Workers who were trained elsewhere but coming to England to practice. TCW did a consultation regarding the roles and duties of Social Workers in May 2013 (in which I participated). Surely this document can be expanded upon with the input of key stakeholders and act as the document which you are proposing.

I don’t believe we need a definition of children’s social work. There is a definition of Social Work that encompasses any activity or role that Social Workers across the world could possibly undertake. As stated, if anything is needed, it is an understanding of what is expected of a statutory children’s Social Worker.

Agreement needs to be reached with Universities to ensure that the minimum UCAS requirement of 240 points for A level students is not breached save in an exceptional circumstances.

These circumstances will need to have at least some parameters to discourage the creation of “loop holes”. There should be a national understanding – exemplars – of what constitutes “exceptional circumstances”.

The calibre of students entering through Access courses and with qualifications other than A-levels needs to be audited at individual institution level.

Agreed. However, there needs to be national guidance and standards as to what is expected of the students in these programs in order to gain entry to a Social Work program. They should be clear as to what classes and experiences they need to have on these courses in order to be accepted for entry into a Social Work program, pre-requisites if you will.

[Sir Martin Narey] recommends that the College of Social Work provide that assurance as part of a radically more rigorous endorsement process.

I don’t think an “endorsement” by the College of Social Work should be mandatory. I think any assurances, standards, policies etc. should be part of the regulatory function of the HCPC as an independent process. However, I think regulation of Social Work programs should be undertaken by a board which includes and is led by the HPC representative, but should also include a current Social Work student, a current newly qualified Social Worker undertaking the ASYE, a Social Work employer, a Senior practitioner and a more experience Social Work professional. One of the two of the later stated should be a practice educator.

The Department for Education should consider whether the role of HCPC in regulating the Social Work profession, including prescribing standards of proficiency and approving HEI social work courses, duplicates the role of the College of Social Work, and, if so, whether those duties should be transferred to the College.

I don’t think there is anything up for discussion. Any regulatory function of any profession should be done independently. Therefore, it would not be appropriate for the College of Social Work, which is a Social Work membership organization, to also be the regulatory body. As BASW Chief executive Bridget Robb states “…regulation is a matter of public protection. It is not self-regulation by the profession so.” All the above functions should be under the jurisdiction of the HCPC. However, there is an argument to be made for there to be representation from the College as well as a student, Newly Qualified Social Worker, and another Social Work professional. I think there needs to be Social Work representation as part of all the processes of the HCPC but it should still be their job to oversee and conduct all inquiries.

The College of Social Work endorsement scheme needs to be compulsory for all institutions offering the social work degree. An HEI unwilling to agree to the endorsement process should not be allowed to train social workers.

Endorsement by the College of Social Work should be more akin to a Michelin star; standard to which Social Work programs aspire. This can help students choose which institutions they would like to apply. I don’t think endorsement should be compulsory for any institution. The College can have its own standards by which they judge an institution but this should be outside of the regulatory function of Social Work education with the input of Social Workers.

The College needs radically to increase the rigour of the endorsement scheme. Teaching should be observed; entry standards scrutinised; the extent to which course sizes might inhibit individual student development probed; the curriculum examined; and the rigour of examinations and other forms of student assessment audited.

 I think all of these functions are crucial in evaluating and examining the effectiveness of social work programs in preparing students for practicing Social Work. However, again, I do not believe that the College should be the institution undertaking this piece of work though they should be a vital contributor to the workgroup.

The endorsement process needs also to include an evaluation of the quality of practice placements. Universities which fail to provide every student with at least one statutory placement (or an alternative which is genuinely comparable and accepted by the employers as comparable) should not receive endorsement.

 I agree that evaluation of practice placements but I think this should be the function of an independent body guided by a set of national standards coordinated, managed and reviewed by a board that includes the independent body and representatives from the profession at different levels.

The Education Support Grant should be distributed only to universities which can demonstrate the quality of their placements, including providing every student with statutory experience, or an alternative experience which is genuinely comparable.

 I agree with this fully especially as a means of ensuring that students are getting a quality education including their placements.

The College must be willing to fail institutions, temporarily or permanently, and to publicise such failings.

 This recommendation already assumes that the Department for Education is has agreed that the College is the appropriate body to undertake the work of approving HEIs. (Shall we assume that it has?) Again, I don’t agree. I think the College and possibly BASW and other Social Worker organizations and professionals should be part of the process. I do believe the body approving HEIs needs to be willing and committed to failing institutions as appropriate.

The College needs to recruit a more senior cross section of assessors, particularly from the ranks of employers, to secure the credibility of the endorsement process. This will almost certainly necessitate an increased level of compensation.

 Again, the assessment of the quality of social work education should be undertaken by an independent body with senior members of social work staff as well as a student, a newly qualified social worker, at the very least. This will allow for there to be agreed upon standards with input from those who are engaged in education, and working following their education  which gives them insight into just how much their education is contributing to their practice, or not.

If the College membership is unwilling to agree to this more robust role for the College, an alternative assessor of the quality of social work education at individual HEIs will need to be found.

 There is no reason why this could not be undertaken by the HCPC with more input from Social Work organizations, including student organizations as well as employers.

In further revisions to the allocation of bursaries and in the light of the financial need further to reduce expenditure, postgraduate study should be protected.

 Agreed, there should be provision for further study.

Step Up should be funded for a fourth year and beyond as a now proven way of bringing high calibre graduates into children’s social work.

 If this is true representation of the results of previous years, then it should continue. (I would need to do more research on the program to give a more informed response.)

Entry to Step Up should be open to only those of the intellectual calibre sufficient to obtain, currently, an Upper Second Degree. But where that ability can be demonstrated to the satisfaction of the employer, possession of an Upper Second or First should not be mandatory.

This seems reasonable but as stated I would need to do more research on the program to give an informed response.

Frontline should seek to recruit individuals, the majority of whom are likely to stay in social work for a considerable time. In evaluating the initiative, the proportion of Frontline graduates remaining in practice should be an important measure of success.

 I have said from the beginning that Frontline is a colossal waste of time. I think the money spent on this should have been put into improving the Social Work programs in existence as well as making the ASYE a more robust program with a national standard being adhered to by all employers. I think institutions need an “advanced standing” program where extensive experience in social care or not for profit or voluntary work can count toward course credits.

Universities should be encouraged to develop degrees for those intending to work in children’s social work. Such degrees would build on a first year common to all social workers, with a second and third year focussing exclusively on children and related issues.

 I think there needs to be two years of generic study with a year in a specialization if the student so chooses. Every student should have a choice in the type of Social Work they practice, so, if after the first two years they would like to go back to home countries, or would like to do international work, they have the basic skill set to do so. They should be given more options than statutory or voluntary work with children or adults. There is a definitive list of transferrable skills in social work that need to be developed in a comprehensive social work program.

The requirement that social workers have placements in contrasting service settings (typically, one with children and one with adults) should be relaxed to allow those intent on a career in children’s social work to spend all 170 days of placement in a children’s setting.

I think students should be able to choose any setting where social workers are practicing. Especially as there is an opportunity to have a long arm practice educator that can either be employed by the HEI or the employer. I don’t think statutory Social Work in compulsory to success as a Social Worker. There are human rights agencies, legal employers, voluntary agencies, international social work agencies or opportunities to practice abroad. Social Work students should not be limited. This children’s social work component should be an elective section following the first two years of generic study (as should an adult component).

Ministers should consider whether they agree there is a case for introducing a work based, non-graduate qualification for those in children’s social care. Such a qualification, while providing an alternative to the undergraduate degree, could provide a measure of professional autonomy including, under appropriate supervision, the management of cases.

Again, I think institutions need an “advanced standing” program where extensive experience in social care or not for profit or voluntary work can count toward course credits. Any further courses undertaken should be funded by the local authority and cover those initial aspects of Social Work training. As they are already in children’s social care they probably wouldn’t need that specialist year on children’s social care but it would be good for them to have the foundation years. In this way, they are developing a willing workforce to sustain themselves and promote from within.

In general I agree with Sir Martin Narey in the need for a complete overhall of Social Work education. However, I disagree (as you can tell) with having a Social Work membership organization serve as the regulatory board for the profession. I whole heartedly believe that regulation, of both the profession and the education, should be undertaken by an independent body with the input of Social Work professionals at varying levels. As I have mentioned I believe a senior Social Work professional, a Student Social Worker and a Newly Qualified Social Worker should be lay members of the committee or committees undertaking this piece of work. It is vital that that regulatory processes remain independent of the profession.

I believe the College of Social Work should still be the public voice of the profession and endorsement can still be an activity but again this would be independent endorsement of those programs which the College feels are exceptional and worthy of their brand.


Posted by on March 6, 2014 in The Social World


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2 responses to “My take on Sir Martin Narey’s recommendations

  1. TG Consultancy

    March 7, 2014 at 11:06 am

    Reblogged this on KeepingtheBalanceinSW and commented:

    Important for everyone to have a look at the recommendations to see what you think,



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