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Research into Social Work Practice Teaching suggests 'need for a more strategic and standardised approach'

In April 2017, Learning Network West (LNW) commissioned 3rd Horizons Ltd to undertake research on practice teaching in the west of Scotland. The specific objectives identified were; to set out current practice in relation to practice teaching in thirteen Scottish local authority area; identify key enablers and barriers in the development and effectiveness of practice teaching in the West of Scotland an identify and profile good practice in Practice teaching.


The research showed that while the system is generally working reasonably effectively, there was a wide variation in the experiences of practice teachers which appears determined by both individual, and local systemic factors.

Some of the barriers identified include:

1. Practice teaching does not have parity of esteem with the Mental Health qualification and yet, the practice teaching award is seen as ‘more difficult’.

2. Many Practice Teachers become inactive on promotion to manager. (lack of time is often the reason cited for becoming inactive).

3. While the amount of time varied in the responses, Practice Teachers talked about the need to set aside a day a week for a student. Many people did the work at home, in their own time.

4. A growing culture of hot-desking and working off site, together with a lack of physical space for students and, in some cases, no laptop for students, negatively impacted on the placement experience

5. There is a tension being held by Practice Teachers – recognising the positive contribution a student makes to the office environment but knowing too that having a student is often seen as an extra work by the wider team.

6. Overall, the process for placing students works, from pre-placement interview to final report. However, it is a reactive process, varied in effectiveness, and not well embedded.


The quotes from respondents helped to contextualise these findings;


‘I think once you have got your qualification and you have been supervised through having your first student, it feels like you are just left to get on with it. It is just the case of you get an email every year to ask, “can you take a student” “aye that’s fine send me their profile” and that’s it.’


‘In terms of support for practice teaching, I think we probably all feel that it’s an ‘add on’ on to what you do. And there’s not really any recognition of the task.. There’s not really any enhancements financially or anything… In order to achieve the award now it takes a long time (and) I think there’s .. a feeling now, there’s a lot of effort for not much reward at the end of it.’


‘It is very difficult to fail a student and it takes its toll on you when a student is failing so it’s easier for to pass them. And we need to look at that in terms of we need good, qualitative people to do this job, because this job is getting harder and harder…we need to look at something that ensures that the people we have got as Practice Teachers are the right people.’


‘We are constantly knocking on people’s doors and we were constantly on our knees saying “please can you take this student”. Where I suppose my personal view is it is not a very strategic way to try and manage what is a complex piece of work'


For the full report and recommendations, see here.