Reform board urges higher social work degree entry level

There should be tougher entry requirements to the social work degree to drive up the calibre of students, the Social Work Reform Board has said.

The reform board wants all students to have a minimum of 240 UCAS points – the equivalent of three Cs at A-level – before they can be accepted on social work courses in England. People applying for Masters-level courses should have at least a 2:1 in their first degree.

The reform board’s report, Building a Safe and Confident Future: One Year On, also proposes that all applicants should complete the following before being allowed to train as social workers:

• Test to assess standard of written English and analytical thinking.

• Individual interview to assess communication skills and understanding of social work (international applicants should take part via video link).

• Basic IT skills assessment .

• Competence in written and spoken English, using level 7 in International English Language Testing Systems as the benchmark.

Currently, the only national entry requirement for social work courses in England is that candidates must have at least grade Cs in GCSE English and maths.

But institutions can set their own requirements. For example, Leeds University stipulates that all candidates must have at least three Bs at A-level for the BA in social work, while Havering College in London only requires 18-21 year olds to have two A-levels, or one year’s experience and no requirement for qualifications for those over 21.

The reform board said the proposed minimum requirement of 240 UCAS points matched the 2009 average across social work degree courses.

“Raising the academic thresholds is likely to raise the profile of [higher education institutions] offering social work degree courses and the status of social work as a discipline,” the report said.

There was strong support for the requirement for demonstrating competence in written and spoken English for international candidates, because “many service users are concerned that their social workers do not speak good English”.

Meanwhile, the reform board has rejected a previous proposal contained in the final report of the Social Work Task Force, which said the minimum number of placement days for the social work degree could be reduced from 200 to 130.

The report said “the weight of opinion supported retention of 200 days for practice learning” but it proposed supplying two placements for each degree, the first of 70 days and the second of 100 days. The remaining 30 days would be allocated to “practice learning time” to focus on skills development and integration between theory and practice.

A supply and demand model should also be developed to ensure there are sufficient placements for all students, the report said.

Anyone interested in commenting on the proposals should email the reform board, ask their representative organisations to submit them on their behalf, or visit the reform board’s website for more details.

Read our special report on what the Social Work Reform Board proposals means for the profession’s future. Includes podcast with reform board chair Moira Gibb.

What do you think? Join the debate on the reform board report on CareSpace 

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