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Information for education and training providers

COVID-19 information for education and training providers. 

Coronavirus (COVID-19)

Information and advice

Last updated 14 December 2021

Information for education and training providers

Placements

Placements are an essential part of social work education. Students must be given the opportunity to put their learning into practice in real-life situations to build skills and confidence for the role. 

Social work students are recognised by the Department for Education and the Department of Health and Social Care as key workers supporting the national response to COVID-19. Education providers, considering the latest government advice, and working with practice educators, employers and students may decide if placements in their area should be suspended or adapted.

Student wellbeing, safety and the need for adequate support and supervision should always be the primary concern when considering whether placements should continue. We encourage you to make local arrangements for the assessment of each student’s practice learning, in conjunction with practice educators, and how any gaps in learning can be filled.

You must ensure that students meet our education and training standards 2021 at the point they wish to apply to join the register, and so any consideration of adjustments should ensure that the standards can still be met.

Admissions

We currently assess course providers against our 2021 education and training standards. These standards outline our expectations of any social work education or training course in relation to admissions.

We understand that admissions processes could still be impacted upon by COVID-19, and where usual admissions processes are unable to take place due to potential future COVID-19 restrictions, the education provider can consider alternative arrangements. For example:

  • Entry criteria – providers may need to use predicted rather than actual grades to help assess the academic suitability of candidates.
  • English language – where English language tests cannot take place under exam conditions, course providers may wish to carry out online testing and advise students that further testing may be carried out at a later date.
  • Selection processes – selection processes should include an assessment of applicants’ knowledge of the social work profession, as well as relevant policies and legislation and test for the values and behaviours expected of social workers in accordance with the professional standards. Where face-to-face methods of assessment can’t be used, alternative arrangements may include, for example, moving to online interview panels and tests.
  • Involvement of people with lived experience – there is flexibility within our standards and guidance around areas of a course in which people with lived experience may be involved. Course providers should consider individual needs when making adjustments in relation to admissions processes. For example, if an individual would find it difficult to participate in an online interview panel or test, then they may be able to be involved in marking written tests or by formulating or reviewing interview questions.

We encourage education providers to further consider equality and diversity for student applications when considering admissions, particularly if there is a likelihood the course will be delivered with an increase in virtual learning environments or if students are likely to have additional support requirements from studying away from campus or increased caring responsibilities during these times.

Any adjustments made to admissions processes must be clearly documented, so that they can be evidenced against our standards.

Academic assessment

We currently assess course providers against our 2021 education and training standards. These standards outline our expectations of any social work education or training course in relation to academic assessment.

As stated in standard 4.1, education and training providers must ‘ensure that the content, structure and delivery of the training is in accordance with relevant guidance and frameworks and is designed to enable students to demonstrate that they have the necessary knowledge and skills to meet the professional standards.’

However, it is up to education providers to develop their own assessment strategy and determine:

  • When and in what format assessments take place during the course
  • How assessments can be co-produced with people with lived experience
  • The pass marks required for individual modules and assessments
  • The assessment requirements for progression in the course (for example, which assessments must be passed before a student may progress)

Education providers may wish to consider alternative arrangements where their planned assessments are impacted by COVID-19, and there is flexibility within the standards and guidance for them to be able to do so. However, any adjustments made to academic assessments must be clearly documented so that they can be evidenced against our standards.

We are working with our partners and a range of different agencies and networks to understand the adjustments that some providers have made and that education providers may wish to consider for their own circumstances. In those conversations, we are encouraging those who have made adaptations to academic assessments to share their plans and to work collaboratively.

Our education and training standards

We currently assess course providers against our 2021 education and training standards. These standards outline our expectations of any social work education or training course, including placements and learning outcomes, so that upon completion students are prepared to register against our professional standards.

Our quality assurance work

Many providers will have concerns about how their response to these unique circumstances is considered during an inspection of their course.

We are not setting out how providers should respond to the impact of COVID-19 or stipulating what measures they should adopt regarding student placements. These responses are best designed and delivered within the local context in which placements are provided. We do ask that providers consider the flexibility of our requirements and standards to adapt placements and student experiences to meet the learning outcomes in different ways, and to document those changes thoroughly.

Our approach to placements and our work with providers is in line with our commitment to minimise the regulatory burden on the profession at this difficult time. We want to support higher education institutes to consider the needs of both the social work student and the health and wellbeing of people supported by social work services. We would also expect providers to consider those providing support to the student while on placement and make sure that any responses seek to minimise disruption to the delivery social work services wherever possible.

This should provide the flexibility for providers to implement necessary adjustments that prioritise the health and wellbeing of students, as well as the safety of the student’s practice on placement while continuing to meet the required learning outcomes to meet our standards. This flexibility is crucial to allow for a needs-based response to placements and to best support to the continuation of placements and contribution of social work students wherever right to do so.

Vaccination of staff and students on campus

Although not mandatory, the government encourages staff and students to be vaccinated in its operational guidance for the higher education sector. Universities are autonomous institutions and able to develop their own policies related to vaccination to suit their context.

We encourage social work course and training providers to consult their own organisational policy and seek advice from relevant colleagues who will have developed the organisations approach in line with government guidance.

Student social work placements in a regulated care setting

Although vaccination remains a personal choice, from 11 November 2021, proof of vaccination is a legal condition of deployment in some care settings. Where vaccination is a condition of deployment (for example, in a Care Quality Commission registered care home setting as part of a student placement), we recommend that course and training providers consult their own organisational policy, work with their employer partners and consult the Department of Health and Social Care’s operational guidance to ensure that the legal requirement is not breached.

This operational guidance includes more information about vaccination as a condition of deployment in care homes for both students on placement and registered professionals. It includes guidance for health and care professionals, as well as more information about situations that may fall outside of this legislation.

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