Education secretary Michael Gove has announced that Frontline, the controversial fast-track entry route into children’s social work, has received formal backing from the government.
Gove confirmed that the Frontline pilots will begin recruiting from this September, with the first round of training beginning in September 2014. However, there is no word on whether the Department for Education (DfE) will provide any funding for the scheme and it has yet to be approved by the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC).
“I am very pleased to announce our support for Frontline, an exciting proposal and a real challenge for the brightest applicants who will have the privilege and satisfaction of helping to improve the lives of the most vulnerable children in the country,” said Gove.
If the scheme gains approval, an initial cohort of 100 graduates will be offered intensive summer school training at a leading university followed by two years of hands-on work in a local authority and further study. The trainees will qualify as social workers at the end of the first year and have an opportunity to complete a Master’s degree in year two.
They will receive a salary comparable with a Teach First trainee, rising to that of a qualified social worker in the second year. Teach First trainees are paid the same rates as unqualified teachers for the first year, which currently range from £15,817 to £29,088 depending on where you live.
The DfE revealed that Isabelle Trowler, England’s newly-appointed chief social worker for children, helped design the Frontline curriculum.
Josh MacAlister, who wrote the initial proposal for Frontline, has been appointed as chief executive, while former Labour education minister Lord Andrew Adonis has been named as chair.
Adonis, who spent time in care as a child, said: “I know first-hand the importance of having a great social worker. There is an urgent need to transform life chances for abused and neglected children and Frontline will play a vital part in addressing this national challenge. In 10 short years, Teach First has helped make teaching one of the top career choices in the country. Frontline can now do the same for social work.”
Bridget Robb, interim chief executive of the British Association of Social Workers, said: “We welcome the proposed model of supervision in the workplace, which will offer an excellent chance to assess whether the approach offers a better model of providing placements for social work students on all courses.”
However, she warned that it would be a challenge to adequately prepare people for safe practice within the proposed timescales.
A spokesperson for the HCPC said: “The Frontline programme still requires approval from the HCPC, before individuals completing the programme can be eligible to apply to the HCPC register and practise. At present, no request for approval has been received by the HCPC. Programmes seeking approval must meet our standards of education and training and demonstrate that individuals completing the programme will meet our standards of proficiency for social workers.”
The HCPC’s approval process takes around nine months to complete and includes a site visit and meetings with relevant stakeholders to the programme.