20 things social workers who have sat the accreditation test think about it

A Unison survey asked the thought of 100 social workers who have sat the accreditation test what they thought about it

Social workers who took part in the Department for Education’s accreditation test pilot were asked by Unison to share their thoughts on the process.

Of the near 1,000 who have been through the assessment process, 100 gave feedback on accreditation’s worth and how it could be improved. Here are some quotes from those who’ve sat the tests that the government wants all child and family social workers to go through by 2020.

Some shared positives about the test’s ability to test competencies –

1. “Some of it was relevant and systemic and asked questions that related well to practice”

2. “It was only a good way to test my memory, as I work in a CAMHS team and do not directly work within child protection”

3. “The case examples were good, and relevant to practice”

4. “The case studies were useful, and answers should test competencies”

Others were negative about whether the process could adequately test a social worker’s competence

5. “It did not take account of specialism and was too generic, thus stripping us of our unique skills”

6. “I felt under pressure from the time constraints and I think I would have given better answers/made better decisions without it being an exam-style environment”

7. “There were some questions that were very specific, and not necessarily related to daily practice”

8. “Some questions were specific about medical knowledge and childhood development, which is why we work in collaboration with partner agencies”

9. “As a NQSW having just completed my three year degree I felt this was just “another” test. Majority of the questions did not apply to Social Work I felt some of the questions were unfair, I have no experience or knowledge of diagnosing a child’s injury and in court I could not be accountable for my judgements as I do not hold any qualifications in this field. I also feel that the multi choice answers were a farce, I feel some of the situations I would not of done what was presented in front of myself. However, I had no choice to state this.”

Feedback was given on how the digital assessment could have been improved

10. “The exam situation … doesn’t allow for any reflection time or discussion in supervision which goes against the social work ethos of developing reflective practice.”

11. “More emphasis on asking social workers to talk about what their thinking, what ideas influence their thinking. Surprisingly there was little or no investigation about theory of change and what ideas or theory we draw upon in thinking about change oriented social work. There needs to be more emphasis on hypothesizing and formulation.”

12. “More thought needs to be given to assessing specialist social worker roles”

13. “I have no idea how a digital assessment could be a true, accurate and reliable measure of social work performance”

Some social workers shared positive thoughts about the test

14. “It will help to ensure that social workers have good knowledge base that is refreshed regularly and encourage ongoing learning – but employers need to give the time for employees to complete this learning”

15. “The questions on law and statutory procedure were good as these will enhance people’s basic knowledge”

16. “It could highlight training issues – however if a test is needed to do this then the [local authority] need to rethink their training needs”

An overwhelming 91% of social workers said this should not be a priority for the government. Here are the issues they felt the government should be looking at instead…

17. “Social work should be fully funded to allow social workers the opportunity to take part in CPD and post-qualifying training courses, which are already in existence, and which keep social workers skills and knowledge up to date.”

18. “Retaining and supporting experienced staff; supporting them through modern and effective infrastructure rather than overloading them with endless organisational and admin tasks that impede the necessary focus on casework.”

19. “Priority should be in providing enough staff to carry out the social work task to a high standard, reducing caseloads, looking at the amount of extra hours staff work and a better way of reimbursing staff for their time.”

20. “There is simply not enough funding and staffing to do the job. Staff work long hours [covering] high caseloads which ultimately do not allow them to do their jobs to the best of their abilities.”

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2 Responses to 20 things social workers who have sat the accreditation test think about it

  1. Gary Holden June 9, 2016 at 4:38 pm #

    Eight days ago (in response to another story here on the Community Care site) I asked:


    “Ms. Trowler, DoE, et al.:

    Perhaps I missed it in all of the narrative, but I did not see any discussion of evidence regarding the psychometric properties of the proposed assessment/accreditation.

    Given all of the resources being spent on this, one would assume that such testing has been done repeatedly. Could someone provide a reference to the findings?

    Thanks, gary


    One person responded with generally unfavorable impressions after taking the test. The comments appear similarly unfavorable in Luke’s story above. Perhaps he only selected negative comments, perhaps those above are representative. Regardless, the questions from my prior exchange remain.

    A] What is the proposed assessment/accreditation actually measuring?

    B] What evidence is there to support your answer to A?

    Regards, gary

    Professor Gary Holden
    New York University
    Silver School of Social Work
    One Washington Square North
    NY, NY US 10003

  2. Lee Pardy-Mclaughlin June 12, 2016 at 8:48 am #

    This article balances the challenges and opportunities that accreditation may bring, I understand the DFE and the Chief SW are looking carefully at the feedback from the social workers and managers who have been involved in the testing.

    We need to understand this in a balanced way, be clear about the benefits to our profession and ultimately the difference this will make to children, young people and their families.

    We do need a strong and clear PQ and CPD framework, we know this is already in existence with regional universities successfully delivering PQ levels courses.

    The big so what is funding, access and of course work load relief to support practitioners to complete. Some of the answers to this are potentially emerging through the pilot phase of the Teaching Partnerships and the extension of this.

    Although these partnerships are certainly not perfect local partnerships between universities and employers is nothing new, where this way of working is good it is very good, but it is not consistent across the country. Perhaps the TP methodology and way of working will foster and galvanise this?

    We have excellence in our academics who promote our profession through leading evidence based research, practice and teaching. We need to celebrate this, build on it because if we don’t have an evidence and research base then the professional status of social work will be eroded. We also need to explore ways for our front line social workers to be involved more meaningfully with teaching in our universities.