Criticisms of social work education review are ‘patent nonsense’, says Narey

Martin Narey hits back against criticism that his report into social work education is not evidence-based

Martin Narey
Government adviser Martin Narey (Credit: Matt Lloyd/Rex)

Martin Narey is tired of being criticised. So tired, in fact, that the adviser to Michael Gove and author of a report on social work commissioned by the Department of Education has produced a slideshow refuting point by point some of the criticisms levelled at his work.

In his report, Narey recommends universities in England should offer specialist children’s social work degrees, as well as publishing clear guidance on what a newly qualified social worker needs to know in order to practice. He also suggests social work courses need to have higher standards for acceptance, claiming some less scrupulous courses are churning out graduates who are “barely literate.”

Critics of the review of social work in England, however, suggest its recommendations are based on anecdote rather than evidence.

Others feared that he would undermine the College of Social Work, suggest the closure of university departments and, in the words of one social work academic, say that “all newly qualified social workers are hopeless,” Narey said.

Narey hit back against detractors of the report, describing claims, including those that it is not evidence-based, as “patent nonsense.”

“My report is littered with evidence. The only people who have been saying that are a handful of academics who are resistant to change.”

He claims many of the concerns about his report were raised by people who assumed they knew what he was going to say before they’d even read it

Narey insists that authorities as diverse as Lord Laming, the General Medical Council, the National Student Survey and the NSPCC were used to evidence his report.

The report was commissioned by education secretary Michael Gove after the Department of Health asked Skills for Care chair David Croisdale-Appleby to produce an almost identical enquiry into social work education.

The report’s timing has sparked concerns that a lack of communication between the departments could jeopardise the successful implementation of change.

Narey, however, is adamant that the duplication is no accident.

“We did two because of the growing conviction that children’s and adults’ social work have become very different things and need to be dealt with separately.”

Academics who have criticised the report have been unwilling to engage in a discussion, according to Narey who says he has “tried to initiate discussion.”

“I have made it very plain I am willing to speak to universities but academics have not been forthcoming.”

“I did speak at Sheffield Hallam University and we had a very good discussion about the importance of children’s social workers getting a placement in statutory  children’s services.”

Chief social worker Isabelle Trowler is to publish a list of recommendations from the report, which Narey says is “moving along with great momentum.”

“There has been an active and enthusiastic discussion between the Department of Health and the Department for Education in the Cabinet, which I’ve found very encouraging,” Narey says.

“Changes to social work education are going to happen. The how is still up for debate.”

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4 Responses to Criticisms of social work education review are ‘patent nonsense’, says Narey

  1. Cod July 9, 2014 at 2:59 pm #

    There are far too many ‘Social Work’ graduates who go straight into academia; these people will be teaching students about the law and practice when they have never been employed by an organisation/local authority to BE Social Workers. How can those people debate with Narey when they have no experience of what he is talking about. How can they know/understand/talk from lengthy experience about the fine nuances of the job? A placement as part of a qualifying course is not good enough experience. How could GPs, Nurses, Electricians, Builders, Plumbers, etc. be taken seriously as ‘educators’ if they’ve never done the graft and gained the experience of working continuously in an environment for a prolonged period? You have to understand, first hand, the stressors and practicalities of physically doing the job before you can go on to teach it.

    I’d like to see the stats on lecturers who have done any actual Social Work above and beyond their placements. I think it would shed a lot of light in respect of the poor quality of graduates that Narey talks about.

    • Bec July 10, 2014 at 8:38 am #

      I profoundly disagree with the above comments. Here on the social work programme at Ruskin College, all the tutors are qualified social workers with social work experience. My colleagues remain in close contact with social workers on the ground, often involved in various groups within the social work world. I remain employed by my Local Authority so spend half my week ‘doing the hard graft’ (and the rest of the week at my institution also involved in ‘hard graft’). The notion that academics do not know what it is like to work as a social worker is just wrong. By the way, my impression of Narey’s report is that it was written after a focus group at the local pub – if that’s sounds harsh it simply reflects the quality of the report.

  2. Daisy July 11, 2014 at 8:11 am #

    Martin Narey’s report is to be welcomed and implemented – can anyone really doubt that changes need to be made to ensure there is aconsitent quality and calibre of professional working in this most depending of jobs protecting the most vulnerable in society.

  3. Roselyn Thompson July 14, 2014 at 7:51 am #

    I agree that many social workers that never done a day practice have gone into academic to teach social work. In mt opinion all teaching social worker should have experience of working in the field prior to teaching, as experience go a long way. On the other hand, individuals have to take job in field where their can earn money to pay their bills and support their families. I am not suggesting that all qualified social worker that go into teaching don’t have experience in working with community and it’s inhabitant but now a days there is many that lack the knowledge base of practicing the profession. For social working to be improve tumours should required to do practice base work once monthly in order to understand local communities and involve in networking.

    Yes some people went into teaching because they graduate with a first class degree and was encourage or offered a position as a junior lecturer. Yes at current newly qualified social worker is having unacceptable time in finding work and so is experienced social worker that take time from the profession. I am sorry to say this but in finding a social work position your face have to fit as the interviews judged you and they make up their mind if you are suited for the job. I know this because it happen to me more than once and they use Governments’ cut in social care service to conduct positive discrimination. All the academical qualification one have and if they don’t lack self-awareness, honesty, acceptance and be able to work with people and enable them to change their circumstances we will still question social work education years to come.