Worries over practice teacher grant cuts cast shadow over degree course

Practice teachers fear that the new social work degree will be
undermined if grants used to train social workers for teaching are
not renewed.

The National Organisation for Practice Teaching (NOPT) believes a
Department of Health review due in the next few weeks could force
the General Social Care Council to scrap or reduce funding for
practice teacher programmes because of uncertainty over their
effectiveness. It is concerned that if this happens it could lead
to the demise of the practice teaching award.

With no new practice teachers being trained, NOPT says the quality
of practice placements for new social work degree students will
suffer because their assessments would be carried out by
under-qualified teachers.

“It appears that the GSCC will have limited expectations of the
quality of placements and practice teachers, leaving considerable
financial pressures on academic institutions to develop low cost,
low quality models,” said NOPT’s co-chairperson Konnie Lloyd.

She said that a lack of emphasis on external verification of
quality of placements would leave “individual institutions to
arrive at their own arrangement about what constitutes a placement,
appropriate learning opportunities and practice teachers”.

Under the new degree, “work-based assessors” are to take on the
role of judging the performance of social work students in practice
placements. Assessors could have a health or education background –
only the final assessment will be made by a qualified social

NOPT believes that the GSCC may recommend that assessors only need
to complete a five-day introductory teaching course, something it
says would be insufficient.

“That would be a tremendous blow to quality as the award gives a
better understanding of teaching and how to put skills into
practice,” Lloyd said.

The GSCC spends £400,000 a year on the 27 programmes run by
universities and councils across the country. It currently takes up
to six months – 14 days of actual teaching – for a social worker to
complete a practice teaching award programme.

The new degree increases practice learning requirements by 50 per
cent to 200 days per student. Practice learning will also be a
performance indicator for social services departments by 2004-5.

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