‘The best part of my job is watching social work students develop into confident practitioners’

Nicholas Barrow, winner of the Practice Teacher of the Year Award 2012, on challenges of preparing students for practice and helping supervisors meet increasingly stringent requirements.

What my job involves:

My role is to ensure all students are placed in agencies which provide social care to the local and wider community within Gloucestershire, in both adult and children’s services. I am then allocated as the practice educator for some the students within these placements. My job also involves working in partnership with the services that support our students, ensuring all supervisors and practice educators undertake the Stage 1 or Stage 2 Practice Educators Award. I also work alongside the universities to ensure that the teaching and direct observations of candidates meet the required level they have aimed for in giving acceptable and appropriate level of quality learning and support.

What winning at the Social Worker of the Year Awards meant to me:

The Social Worker of the Year Awards 2013 are open for entries

Find out more and apply

It was one of the highlights of my career. To be recognised and praised for the work I do with students has been fantastic. It has helped me confirm that I am delivering a service which ensures that student social workers are given the best possible start in their careers. I feel privileged to be a practice educator as the role allows me to guide students and help them through the processes of their development, ensuring they cover all aspects of what it means to be a reflective and analytical practitioner.
Winning the award has inspired me to write about social work education and, in particular, look at the roots of what is needed to be a good practitioner, such as good communication skills, being analytical and reflective, report writing, good decision making, using legislative measures to safeguard when appropriate, but most importantly recognising that service users are experts in their own situations.

 Best part of the job: 

The best part of my job is meeting students and building good professional relationships with them to ensure they are fully supported and are given the best chance to progress in their learning and practice. One of the Social Work Reform Board’s (SWRB) recommendations aim to ensure practice education is at the forefront of learning and practice. Watching them develop into confident and responsible practitioners is one of the highlights for me. I also work within a fantastic team who, in my opinion, are entitled to share this award with me. I think good team relations results in good productive outcomes for all students we work with. 

Biggest challenge:

One of the biggest challenges for me in my career as social worker and practice educator has been to ensure supervisors and practice educators are on track to meet the SWRB’s requirements, which come in to place in 2014-15. The practice educator framework standardises the quality of the qualifications for those involved in practice education. In a time where so many organisational changes are taking place within local authorities nationally, it’s been a challenge to adjust to the demands of ensuring that practice educators and supervisors are trained within the timescales given by the reform board.

Why I became a social worker:

I worked within residential establishments with teenagers who had social and behavioural problems. I found this work challenging, but interesting and enjoyable. It was from this point I decided that I wanted to train as a social worker. Once qualified, I worked within children’s and adult teams, evolving to deputy manager, acting team manager, senior practitioner, lecturer and my current position as a practice learning coordinator/practice educator.

The one thing the government could change to make my job easier:

The government is going through a difficult process of stabilising the economy within the country, but, although I agree with some of their principles, I would like MPs to consider the impact their decisions have had on service users in local communities. The drive to be efficient is problematic for all social care staff. The changes to bursary arrangements for students may also have a major impact on the numbers of candidates who apply to undertake the social work programme. 

More from Community Care

Comments are closed.