An educational consultancy has won the tender to deliver content for the national rollout of social work accreditation, due to commence in spring 2020.
It commenced in February, though was only made public some weeks later, and runs until March 2021. AlphaPlus’s website describes it as working in 20 countries with a range of technical and vocational training providers, including City and Guilds, as well as professional bodies and government departments.
Under the contract, it must produce and quality assure a full set of assessment content by summer 2018, as well as recruiting staff to support its activities, before completing trials with “diverse participants” representing a cross-section of children’s social workers by January 2020.
Several break clauses are written into the agreement allowing the Department for Education to terminate it at one month’s notice.
Pilot scheme analysis
The NAAS programme has proved highly controversial and was massively scaled back in 2017 after a backlash from the sector.
Originally, the DfE planned to have accredited all of the estimated 30,000 children’s social workers in England by 2020.
But following a consultation it slowed the rollout, with just 1,200 social workers due to be accredited by January 2020.
Two pilot phases of councils have been involved, with Bury, Leeds, Manchester, Oldham and Wigan the first to get onboard in summer 2018.
At the time Unison, which has called for accreditation to be scrapped, said it was advising its members not to participate in the new tests, which it said would “take staff away from vital frontline work”. Phase one councils told Community Care that some social workers had expressed an interest in the scheme and the British Association of Social Workers (BASW) said it would support those who opted to take part.
Under the new contract, AlphaPlus is to carry out a qualitative and quantitative analysis of these ‘phase one’ authorities to “inform future content development”.
It will also implement a plan for monitoring the performance of existing content used by phase one councils and their phase two counterparts.
Forty-eight phase two local authorities have now been awarded grants by the DfE to support trialling NAAS, in three tranches, with the most recent only announced in late February 2019.
An AlphaPlus spokesperson said the company was unable to comment further on the company’s responsibilities under the new contract without the consent of the DfE.
A DfE spokesperson said: “AlphaPlus were awarded this contract as they presented a strongest bid in a competitive environment.”
The spokesperson added that an independent evaluation was being carried out into how NAAS was implemented within individual local authorities.
This was also examining the attitudes of councils and social workers towards NAAS, the support offered to them and how NAAS has impacted on continual professional development and workforce planning, the spokesperson said.