Newly qualified social worker supervisor Les Gallop reflects on his workplace learning
Over the past 15 months I have worked with 10 newly qualified social workers (NQSWs) in children’s services under the Children’s Workforce Development Council’s national support programme for NQSWs in England.
I welcomed the introduction of the NQSW support scheme. Working with NQSWs has made me realise that it is even more important than I thought it would be.
Listening to this group talk about their work through the year, I have been struck by the power of the workplace as a vehicle for learning.
The scheme is helping new professionals grow in confidence and competence more quickly than has hitherto been possible.
It is a time of real emotional demands and major learning for NQSWs – finding their professional feet, learning about local arrangements, developing relationships with other professionals, working out for themselves what kind of social worker they want to be, and so on.
Early on, every day involves doing something new. NQSWs often describe this as something of a culture shock. For many, the sheer sense of responsibility can seem overwhelming.
Time for reflection is essential. Without such space, they are vulnerable to the easy way out: procedural compliance not accompanied by analysis and challenge; the struggle for professional wisdom sacrificed in the struggle for survival.
But time is not a friend. As the NQSW year goes on, it often becomes more difficult to allocate study time. Many departments will struggle to develop the sort of learning-friendly environment in which professional development and reflection are seen as necessary parts of service quality, rather than as a luxury.
My worry is that the preoccupation with quality assurance via checklists will crowd out the space for reflection, which has been the clearest added value element of the scheme as I have experienced it. The programme justifiably demands evidence of ability and knowledge, but this must not come to be all that the programme is about.
I truly hope that the inevitable cuts in budgets in coming years do not sweep aside this programme.
Writing about her experiences in Community Care, Alinka Gearon, an NQSW from Swindon Council, said in April that: “I only qualified last year but already feel I am making a difference to the lives of children and families.”
Alinka and the 3,000 other NQSWs taking part in the CWDC programme are the future of our profession: their development matters to us all.
Les Gallop is a qualified social worker, tutor, and supervisor/mentor for newly qualified social workers in children’s services
This article is published in the 29 July issue of Community Care magazine under the heading NQSW scheme has reaped dividends