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Approval of qualifying social work courses

Guidance on how we will process your request for approval of a new qualifying social work course.

Approval of qualifying social work courses

Last updated: 26 November 2019

About this guidance

This is guidance on how Social Work England will process your request for approval of a new qualifying social work course. The course will not have previously been approved by us or another regulator.

For the purposes of this guidance, we refer to this process as a ‘new course approval’. Separate guidance is available for courses that have previously been approved or if you wish to make a change to an existing course.

This guidance has been written for course providers to explain the steps from the point of making a request to Social Work England to approve a course to a decision being made.


In our rules and in this document, we describe course providers as ‘relevant institutions’. Throughout the document ‘we’, ‘us’ and ‘our’ refers to Social Work England. ‘You’ refers to the relevant institution, including those involved in leading or managing the course.

You will also see the use of verbs such as ‘should’, ‘may’ or ‘could’. We use words such as ‘should’, ‘may’ or ‘could’ in the guidance to make recommendations or to advise on what you can usually expect from our process.

Our process

Making a new course approval request

You can make a request by sending an email to [email protected]. You should provide the following information:

  • Contact details, including email address and telephone number(s) of the most appropriate person to liaise with about the approval of your course
  • Details of the course you want approved for delivery
  • Any dates we should be aware of, for example when you would like to run the course, and any internal validation dates
  • Anything else you think would be useful for us to be aware of at this stage

Your request

We’ll review your request and you will normally be contacted within 2 working days by the education quality assurance operations manager. We’ll discuss the details of the request and agree next steps. This will give you an opportunity to ask any questions you might have about the process and to identify anything that would prevent us from progressing the request straight away.

The officer

When we progress the request, an education quality assurance officer will be allocated to you. The officer will be your main point of contact throughout the approval process and they will also be part of the onsite inspection team. This officer will contact you and advise you of what information we’ll need to commence our pre-inspection process.


The officer will ask you to complete forms which will support your application. These forms will include a mapping document for you to set out how you meet the education and training standards. They will advise on how we want to receive your documentary evidence and by what date.

The officer will also discuss provisional dates for inspection. This date is dependent upon the outcome of the documentary review and we may decide to postpone the date to allow you to fully complete the pre-approval process.

Documentary evidence review

The officer will review all of your documentary information and contact you if they have any questions about the information you have submitted. If the officer has any concerns about proceeding to inspection, they will contact you. This might occur if the officer feels an inspection could be premature and that, as a result of the review, they think additional information to support you meeting the standards might be available at a later date, or there is insufficient evidence to commence.

The outcome of the review will be communicated to you. When we are satisfied that we have all the documentary evidence required to proceed we will assign 2 inspectors, 1 lay inspector and 1 registrant inspector.

We undertake a conflict of interest process when confirming our inspectors. However, when you are advised of the name of your inspectors and you think there is a potential conflict of interest, you should make your officer aware.

The inspectors will complete an assessment of the evidence provided and advise the officer if they have any queries that may be able to be addressed in advance of the inspection. At this point, we’ll review the provisional inspection dates to make sure that they are at least 40 working days’ away. If they are less than 40 working days away, a new inspection date will be discussed and agreed with you.

During this time a draft plan for inspection will be developed and will be shared with you to make sure it is achievable at the point of inspection.

You maybe required to facilitate the activities below, should they be required as part of the inspection and outlined in the inspection plan:

  • Meetings with relevant staff from your institution.
  • Meetings with students undertaking the course, people with lived experience of social work, training placement providers, and staff that supervise and assess students undertaking the course whilst on training placements.
  • Observation of teaching delivered at your institution or on training placements.
  • Observation of any or all of the qualifying examinations.
  • Observation of any or all of the qualifying examination boards.
  • Tours of facilities used to deliver teaching and assessment at your institution, or at training placement locations.

There may be occasions when we need to arrange sessions outside of the agreed inspection dates. If this is the case the officer will explain this when agreeing the plan with you. The plan will be confirmed with you along with the dates for inspection. The officer will be your main point of contact prior to and during inspection, and you should direct any queries you have to them.


The inspection team will include your named officer and 2 inspectors. They will undertake the inspection as outlined in the plan for inspection and will review the evidence they are gathering during, or at the end of, each day.

As well as considering your documentary evidence, the inspection team will meet with stakeholders to understand how the course works and what resources and facilities are available for students. We need to have enough information to assess whether the course meets the education and training standards and that students who complete the programme will meet our professional standards.

The officer will be responsible for making sure that the inspection plan is being followed and address any concerns raised about the plan. We recommend that you appoint an administrator to take minutes of the full inspection as our report will only relate to the standards and what we require in order to make an approval decision. Therefore, it won’t be a full record of discussions.

At the end of the inspection, the officer and the inspectors will meet privately to discuss their findings and conclusions. They will then meet with you to discuss how the inspection has been undertaken and may include an overview of where they have found evidence of good practice. They will then discuss the next steps in approving the course.

After the inspection


We will provide you with a questionnaire following the inspection. This will give you an opportunity to make any observations about the inspection.

The inspection report

The inspection report is compiled by the officer and agreed by the inspectors within 42 calendar days of the date of the inspection. The draft will then be shared with you within 10 working days of that agreement. You may provide factual corrections to the draft report within 28 calendar days of receiving the report, which may result in the report being amended.

The final inspection report will be sent to you within 10 working days of any amendments made, and upon receipt of the report you then have a further 10 working days to provide observations on the report.

Consideration by the regulator

The final inspection report, and any observations provided by you will be considered when reaching our approval decision. The decisions we can make are that:

  • The course is approved without conditions
  • The course is approved with conditions or
  • The course doesn’t meet the criteria for approval

You will be advised of the decision within 10 working days of the date we make the decision.


If we decide that conditions are appropriate, we will write to you setting out:

  • What conditions we have decided to attach to the approval of the course
  • How you can demonstrate how you have met, or are meeting the conditions
  • The action we will take once we decide that the conditions are met
  • The action we will take if we decide the conditions are not met

Further information

We’ll continue to review and develop our guidance and forms as we move towards the implementation of our 2021 education and training standards

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