My practice

About six months ago I was asked how I felt about becoming a
practice assessor: “A practice what?”, I recall saying.

Four months later a student from the local university began a
six-month social work placement with our community mental health

Meanwhile, I had attended a training course on the changes that
have arisen since the move from the DipSW to the new social work
degree and it was the change in the supervision, management and
assessment of social work students while on placement that had
surprised me most.

I must confess to a less than positive experience during my own
social work training a number of years ago. Within a couple of
months it was clear that the university social work department was
not keen to practice what it preached, and I found the academic
perspective quite removed from the reality of day-to-day social
work practice.

It was an absolute blessing therefore that the two major placements
that I completed were outstanding and equipped me well for the
challenging professional role that I was to take on. It was because
of my mixed experiences that I feel so committed to enabling other
social work students to have placements that are demanding,
exciting, realistic and challenging.

I have supervised several students in the past few years. I have
always found it rewarding. It constantly helps me to reflect on my
own practice and development. This has been especially true while
working within a multi-disciplinary team with a heavy medical bias.

But the new role of the practice assessor has been a daunting
challenge. The role of the old practice teacher (that lovely person
who met the student regularly to link theory to practice) has
changed. It is now a mixture of a consultancy role and a
troubleshooting expert.

Therefore as a practice assessor I have the responsibility for the
day-to-day supervision and management of a social work student, but
also a new function of ongoing formal assessment ensuring that the
student fulfils the General Social Care Council’s national
occupational standards.

At first this felt like a difficult balance to meet: juggling the
supportive, developmental supervisor with the role of assessor. In
practice what I have found is that once I understood the structure
of the occupational standards, it made for quite simple ongoing
assessment, through supervision and other forums.

I was initially worried about the additional workload, and while I
appreciate that not everyone will have such an able student as I
have had, it would be a shame for anybody to be put off from taking
social work students because of a perceived additional assessment

Mark Sloman is a social worker, community mental health
team, Somerset

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