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Social Work Learning at University and Placement – Does the Current Social Work Degree Give Students the Sufficient Amount of Knowledge and Learning Experiences to Become Competent Practitioners?

MA in Social Work 2012

With the introduction of the ASYE (Assessed and Supported Year in Employment) in September of this year (CSW, 2012) the Social Work Reform Board stated that, “We have been told that new social workers are often not properly prepared for the demands of the job and that the education system does not effectively support ongoing development and specialisation”. There is concern with current students and with students having qualified in recent years that the BA and MA degrees in social work are leaving students feeling unprepared for practice.

Social work is an important role in society, described as being a job which, ‘intervenes at the points where people interact with their environments’ (I.F.S.W. 2012). The emphasis of being a social worker is to promote human rights and social justice by empowering individuals to enhance their own well-being.

Education and the way social work students are trained in the field is a fundamentally important part of a social work student’s path to becoming a practitioner. And this should underpin their views, values and ways of approaching new and challenging situations whilst working alongside vulnerable people in a way that is anti-discriminatory and one that puts the person at the forefront. This training is crucial for establishing the foundation of learning and knowledge that social work students should continue to develop throughout their career.

The way social work is taught in England is cause for interesting discussions, it has been taught by the standard of degree level for the past 10 years, since 2003, (GSCC, 2012). Social work within the format of a degree is still relatively new in regards to the ways it can teach social work students within this field. Accredited by the professional body that is the GSCC, (General Social Care Council), they set the core standards for social work training in England, with universities being able to teach this core learning whilst adding other variant modules to the BA and MA courses. This brings up an initial research query, which is, ‘standardisation versus institutional autonomy’ and having a clearer vision of what the main areas of social work knowledge should be.