DfE awards Frontline £7m contract to run social work leadership training scheme

Provider of fast-track qualifying scheme will work with What Works for Children's Social Care and North Yorkshire council to deliver training for managers and leaders

Mary Jackon, chief executive, Frontline
Mary Jackon, chief executive, Frontline (credit: Frontline)

Correction: the story originally said that the contract value was £10m, as per the tender, but we have since had it confirmed that it is £7m.

Frontline has won a £7m government contract to deliver training and development for council children’s social work managers and leaders.

The organisation – best known for its fast-track social work qualifying scheme – announced yesterday it had won the Department for Education (DfE) contract to deliver the new Pathways programme, starting later this year.

The contract is for two years and Frontline will deliver Pathways in partnership with sector evidence body What Works for Children’s Social Care and North Yorkshire council, with support from Hertfordshire council.

Pathways will train 1,000 managers and leaders a year at four different levels: practice supervisor, middle manager, heads of service and practice leaders (equivalent to assistant directors).

The scheme replaces Frontline’s existing Firstline and Headline programmes, for team managers and heads of service, respectively, as well as two other existing DfE-funded programmes:

‘Supporting leaders to equip social workers’

Frontline chief executive Mary Jackson said: “This national investment in the development of over 1,000 social work leaders is both crucial and positive; we know that excellent leadership empowers people at all levels to navigate their roles and contribute to creating a culture which prioritises children and families above all else.

“That’s why a focus on supporting leaders to equip social workers with the skills to deliver the best possible support and improved outcomes for children and families sits at the heart of each pathway.”

The training, across all four levels, will have online and in-person elements and a focus on equality and diversity, said Frontline.

What Works’ role will be to design and deliver elements of the programme that are to do with research and evidence, including training in research methods and carrying out service evaluations.

‘Crucial that social work is invested in’

North Yorkshire’s assistant director for children and families services, Martin Kelly, said: “It is crucially important that social work in the UK is invested in, so that the sector can recruit, retain and champion the best – children and young people deserve nothing less.

“We welcome this programme and government investment, which recognises the importance of this focus.”

‘Pride’ in delivering supervisor programme

Following the announcement, the organisations behind the PSDP said: “We – Research in Practice, the Tavistock & Portman NHS Foundation Trust, University of Sussex, and Goldsmiths University of London – are extremely proud to have co-led the PSDP.

“Over the past four years, together with our network of committed higher education institutions and other delivery partners, we have facilitated 122 courses reaching over 2000 practice supervisors and middle leaders. The positive feedback and impact data is a testament to the hard work of participants.

“It has been a privilege to show what can be achieved through a sector-led, evidence-informed approach to professional learning. In keeping with our not-for-profit ethos, we have developed an open access website, full of free resources and tools to support reflective supervision and inclusive leadership – we are delighted to say that this website will remain available until at least March 2023.

“Social work has never been more important to society than it is today; valuing the profession has never been more vital. We warmly welcome DfE’s continued investment in social work training, and wish Frontline all the best in this new contract. We hope that the sector continues to benefit from values-driven and high-quality professional development.”

Confidence in new programme

A spokesperson for Kensington and Chelsea Council, part of the Centre for Systemic Social Work, said it was confident that the Pathways programme would “continue to develop great practice leaders for the future, and we are working in partnership with Frontline to ensure a smooth transition process”.

They added: “We are incredibly grateful to the participants and those who have contributed to the programme in bringing energy, enthusiasm, and practice wisdom. We have enjoyed meeting so many bright minds and committed social workers.”

The spokesperson confirmed that the centre would continue its work as a DfE sector-led improvement partner for children’s social care and special educational needs and disability.

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4 Responses to DfE awards Frontline £7m contract to run social work leadership training scheme

  1. Tess July 12, 2022 at 8:20 am #

    What a shame, missing the point for struggling services again!

    • Maria July 14, 2022 at 4:11 pm #

      That’s what I thought when we have corrupt colluding bullying managers & leaders who drive experienced permanent SW’s out of the profession!

  2. Sonny July 12, 2022 at 4:38 pm #

    Makes sense. Too many different programmes working independently without any cohesion or flow. Now we get one standard for everyone.


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