DCSF official: Children’s social workers give degree poor marks

The Department for Children, Schools and Families has found that only one-third of newly qualified children’s social workers believe their degree courses prepared them fully or largely for their job.

The finding, from a survey this year of 500 newly-qualified practitioners, compares poorly with a 2005 survey of more than 2,000 newly-qualified teachers, in which 85% agreed that their training course had prepared them to be an effective teacher.

Just over half of social workers said their course prepared them “just enough” for their role, with the rest saying it had not prepared them at all to practice.

“Serious doubts” over degree

Releasing the results at a Community Care conference last week, Department for Children, Schools and Families official Helen Jones said employers and newly-qualified practitioners had “serious doubts” over whether the social work degree prepared them for practice, including core statutory roles.

The survey found that only half of newly-qualified practitioners said their training “completely or mostly” covered child protection and only one-third said it completely or mostly covered child development.

The findings come from a series of Children’s Workforce Development Council workshops held in January and February to develop the DCSF’s newly-qualified social worker pilots, which will launch in September. These will feature managed caseloads and improved supervision in the practitioner’s first year.

Large variability in teaching quality

Jones told the conference on the therapeutic care of looked-after children that there was large variability in the quality of teaching on social work courses, and in the quality of practice placements.

She pointed out that the thresholds for entry on to social work courses were “significantly below” those for other professions, yet student numbers were increasing.

Her speech raised the issue of whether the degree should become more specialised between children’s and adults’ social work. Last year, the government scotched rumours that it was considering splitting the degree.

Kim Bromley-Derry, vice-president of the Association of Director of Children’s Services, told the conference that legislation was needed to reduce caseloads to free up time to address case problems.

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