BASW's concern at unrealistic timescale for Frontline's fast-track "high fliers"
BASW responded to the launch of Frontline, a fast-track training model for “high-flying” graduates, with nationwide media appearances expressing concern at the tight timescale proposed for preparing candidates for entering practice and at the risk of university trainees being shunted aside in the queue for placements.
Accepting that the programme offered “the potential to attract new talent into the profession” BASW’s Chief Executive Bridget Robb said the pilot studies, commencing next year, must be used to evaluate whether the model of summer school training and workplace supervision can prove effective.
Ms Robb said: “There continue to be enormous challenges in the proposed timescale to prepare people with sufficient academic and practice experience to prepare them adequately for safe practice.
“Frontline offers the potential to attract new talent into the profession – alongside those students from other social work courses – but it will only work if employers offer placements to students from all training programmes in as consistent and fair a way as possible.”
Aimed at encouraging “top graduates” into children’s social work, the Frontline scheme will centre on intensive summer school training at a university followed by two years of hands-on work in a local authority and further study. The trainees will qualify as social workers at the end of the first year and have an opportunity to complete a Master’s degree in year two.
Recruitment to the Frontline programme will commence in September. An initial cohort of 100 graduates are expected to start training in September 2014.
The Frontline programme is based on the Teach First model used in schools, where candidates are paid the same rates as unqualified teachers for the first year of training.
The Chair of Frontline, former Labour minister Andrew Adonis, said: “In ten short years Teach First has helped make teaching one of the top career choices in the country. Frontline can now do the same for social work.”
The Chief Executive of Frontline, Josh MacAllister, said it would be “totally focused on recruiting and developing outstanding social workers to lead change for disadvantaged children”.
Bridget Robb said BASW would continue to work with those behind the Frontline initiative but that social work faces deeper challenges which need to be addressed: “We are interested in the opportunity that the Frontline initiative provides to explore the potential for diversity in the delivery of social work education. We welcome the proposed model of supervision in the workplace, which will offer an excellent chance to assess whether the approach offers a better model of providing placements for social work students on all courses.
“However, after the tragedy of Baby Peter we saw a swathe of political initiatives – the Social Work Taskforce, the Social Work Reform Board, the Munro review and the College of Social Work among them – but social workers widely report deterioration instead of improvement to their work environment. Alongside these latest reforms, workplaces also have to change. We cannot go on ignoring social workers when they speak of excessive caseloads and paperwork, and no time to see the service users including children or resources to help families.”
The Frontline programme:
• Intensive summer school training at a leading university;
• Two years hands-on work in a local authority alongside further University-based study;
• Qualification as a social worker at the end of the first year and the opportunity to complete a Master’s degree in year two;
• Intensive leadership training; and
• A salary comparable with a competitive training bursary in year 1 and a fully salaried local authority social worker post in year 2