By Helen Bonnick
The government says the reduction in the daily rate paid to non-statutory student placement providers, from £28 to £20, is designed to improve the quality of placements.
This claim is disingenuous to say the least and would appear to be related significantly to the past overspend in the Education Support Grant (ESG) budget and the desire to refocus on statutory placements in future as a quality assurance guarantee.
At the same time, the government’s response to its ESG consultation acknowledges that the daily rate paid to practice educators has remained the same since 2003, despite new training and qualifications requirements.
The changes to fees are interim changes for the coming academic year that are to be reviewed following consideration of the two recent reviews of social work education and other changes currently afoot.
So what did those two reviews have to say?
While Martin Narey’s report proposed focusing on statutory agencies to assure the quality of placements, the review from David Croisdale-Appleby recognised a continuing trend in the increase in voluntary sector placement.
Croisdale-Appleby’s review strongly advocated for a significant raising of the rates paid to practice educators as a matter of priority alongside raising their status through better continuing professional development.
It also acknowledged issues around who gets the money in big organisations, but that does not directly affect me as in my role as an offsite educator I command half the daily rate, which is paid to me when students end their placements (there is a whole other discussion there).
For the sake of argument, let’s consider a placement of 100 days and assume the student is on placement 4 days a week.
I will be required to visit every fortnight, as well as attend Learning Agreement and midway meetings, observations and meetings with the onsite supervisor.
This will be an absolute minimum, as often there will be a need for additional support or a visit for an observation will be aborted for one reason or another.
I may well have to travel a considerable way to get to the placement but let’s average it out at a one-and-a-half hour return trip since I may be working with up to six students at different venues at a time.
Then there will be the time needed to write reports on visits as well as midway and final portfolio reports.
Do you want me to skimp on these?
No, I thought not, so let’s allow an hour per visit and we’ll round the big reports into this.
It’s starting to look as if I’m working for around £13 an hour at the new rate.
So my question is this: How does reducing the pay to people who are trusted to assess the progress and development of students, at the same time as requiring a higher level of training and qualification, increase the quality of these assessments or of the placements, or students themselves?
As an offsite practice educator, I would never pretend that I’m in it for the money.
Nevertheless, I have got to eat!