Skills for Care/CWDC: Practice learning ‘highly deregulated’

The management of practice placements for social work students is “highly deregulated” with wide variations across local authorities, a report has found.

A study of 18 authorities commissioned by the Social Work Development Partnership – comprising Skills for Care and the Children’s Workforce Development Council – found significant differences in the roles performed and the qualifications and experience required of practitioners who supported students.

Job title confusion

The situation appeared “even more complex” due to different job titles employed by councils for similar roles, notably ‘practice teachers’ and the newer term, ‘practice assessors’.

The report said the former term described the role more completely while ‘practice assessor’ had traditionally been used to describe those who assessed people training to become practice teachers.

Despite the small sample, researchers from Sheffield Hallam University said the results should present a “reasonably representative picture” of English councils in general.

No dedicated staff in third of councils

A third of respondents did not employ dedicated staff to deliver practice learning, and less than half provided practice assessors or teachers with relief from their regular workload. 

The report also raised concerns about the impact on practice learning of the split between children’s and adults’ services initiated by the Children Act 2004.


In 78% of councils surveyed, practice learning was integrated across the two departments, however the report found the disruption of reorganisation had “had a damaging effect on practice learning”.

The findings come amid widespread concerns over the quality and availability of statutory placements for social work students in councils:-

More information

Social Work Development Partnership resources on practice learning


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