Academics’ statement criticises Frontline evaluation for “worrying lack of clarity”

A joint statement from social work education committees questions evaluation of fast-track social work training scheme Frontline

Michael Gove at Frontline film screening
Josh McAlister and Michael Gove attending a Frontline film screening (credit: Ewan Shears)

A group of social work academics has issued a joint statement criticising the evaluation of Frontline, the fast-track social work training  scheme.

The joint statement by  the Association of Professors of Social Work (APSW) and the Joint University Council Social Work Education Committee (JUCSWEC) was made in response to the evaluation of Frontline, commissioned by the Department for Education.

The academics said the evaluation, which will be carried out by CASCADE: the Children’s Social Care Research and Development Centre, shows a “worrying lack of clarity”.

The committee said responses from its members raised the question of whether a comparative study is “possible or, indeed, ethical,” since Frontline was established based on the belief that “current social workers are not good enough,” the response said, describing this view as “extraordinary” and “unfair”.

The academics stated that the evaluation doesn’t say what the “perceived inadequacies in social work practice are that Frontline seeks to address”.

A spokesman from Frontline said: “Given the innovative nature of the Frontline programme we are enthusiastic participants in the independent evaluation.

“It’s disappointing that a group of academics are refusing to engage in an evaluation that would allow for collective learning. Furthermore, seeking to influence an evaluation in this way is inappropriate.”

A senior social work academic who wished to remain anonymous said he wanted to make it clear the views of the social work education bodies do not necessarily represent the views of all social work academics.

He spoke out in support of the Frontline programme, saying that some critics were so fixed in their views of the programme that, no matter what Frontline did, he didn’t think they “could do anything to assuage some academics’ concerns.”

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6 Responses to Academics’ statement criticises Frontline evaluation for “worrying lack of clarity”

  1. Concerned of HE October 27, 2014 at 1:27 pm #

    Breath-taking chutzpah from Frontline – criticising the HE sector for raising concerns and exerting undue influence when its they (FL) who sit on the Advisory Board for the evaluation and appear to have carefully loaded the dice to exclude significant factors that would impact on any comparative study – like COST. The huge sums of money spent by Frontline on delivery, staffing, student bursaries is considered irrelevant? Or how about apparently not using the PCF in the evaluation – when every single other student and social worker in the country is assessed against that? These are the things that are ‘inappropriate’ not a concerned sector raising people’s awareness of the evaluation’s poor research approach.

  2. G Hall October 28, 2014 at 9:01 am #

    I still do not understand how Frontline is considered a response to what most enquiries, most surveys and anecdotally is the biggest pressure on social workers. That is workload. How is high academic achievement meant to mitigate this factor?

    • Jim Greer October 30, 2014 at 1:24 pm #

      Good point G Hall. Frontline is now listed on the webpage with has the link to Eilleen Munro’s report on Child protection as a response to Munro. This is rewriting history, there is nothing on the Munro report’s recommendations which would logically lead to a recommendation for a scheme such as Frontline.

  3. Terry Murphy November 6, 2014 at 12:16 pm #

    Looking at the local authorities who agreed to provide placements for the Frontline programme from September 2014 :· Buckinghamshire· Kingston· Manchester· Harrow· Croydon· Haringey· Tameside· Newham· Essex· Kensington & Chelsea· Southwark· Westminster· Richmond· Wigan· Camden· Hammersmith & Fulham· Ealing· Tower Hamlets.
    It would be fascinating to know how Frontline with its cherry picking approach has impacted placements offered to other courses and to staff workloads in the teams who are being required to offer up cases for Frontline to pick and choose from.

  4. Pat Curran November 7, 2014 at 11:24 am #

    The Frontline Programme is an interesting concept of what could be viewed as training an “officer class” of social workers. Following Terry Murphy’s argument I just wonder about the overall impact on all placements when independent off site practice educators with substantial experience have had no pay rise in fees for 7 years and now being forced to accept a 30% pay rise this academic year. Many I suspect will vote with their feet at this government decision and this will no doubt put additional pressure on all the hard working universities who are very committed to providing a high level of social work training.

    • Pat Curran November 7, 2014 at 11:26 am #

      I should of course stated a 30% pay cut and not pay rise. Wishful thinking on my part!