The government will expand the number of social work teaching partnerships as it looks to “raise the quality” of trainees and teaching.
The Department for Education and Department of Health have opened a new round of bidding for teaching partnership funding. The two-year funding deals will be awarded to successful joint applications from councils and universities that commit to training social workers to government-specified standards.
Priority will be given to applications that embed the chief social workers’ knowledge and skills statements and guarantee to give students two statutory placements. The government has not said how many partnerships it will commit to supporting or how much funding is available for the latest round of bidding.
Continuation funding for existing partnerships
The teaching partnerships scheme launched last year. Partnerships in four regions were awarded funding – South Yorkshire, North West Midlands, Greater Manchester and South East London.
These partnerships will be awarded ‘continuation funding’, subject to a check of “satisfactory progress” during 2015-16, according to guidance produced by the DfE and DH.
The expansion of teaching partnerships was announced in a letter from the chief social workers Isabelle Trowler and Lyn Romeo.
The letter said: “Our expansion plans look to cement important collaborations between universities and councils to ensure a steady stream of high calibre social workers to the frontline, working with children, families and vulnerable adults.
“Teaching partnerships offer a great opportunity for working together to invest in the highest standards of social work education and practice. They provide the chance to ensure that we have more good placements available for students, more support for practice educators and more input from practising social workers and people with lived experience in educating social work students.”
Uncertainty over core funding
The move to expand teaching partnerships comes amid growing uncertainty over the two main routes of social work education funding – the Education Support Grant, which provides funding for placements, and the social work bursary.
Community Care revealed in January that ministers were considering scrapping the social work bursary. The government has since confirmed that a consultation on the bursary’s future will be held later this year.
Government funding for the bursaries dropped from £84.4m in 2012-13 to £59.2m in 2014-15, official figures obtained by Community Care show. Education Support Grant funding was cut from £30.5m to £22m over the same period.
Universities have yet to be told what funding levels will be for the 2016 academic year, despite student interviews being underway.
Brigid Featherstone, co-president of the Association of Professors of Social Work, said she welcomed news of the teaching partnerships expansion but warned the lack of details on how many partnerships would be supported contributed to “the climate of uncertainty” facing social work education providers in planning for next year.