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Education and training standards

We approve social work courses against the education and training standards to ensure that students who successfully complete a course can meet our professional standards.

Education and training standards (2021)

The standards against which we assess and approve social work education and training courses

The education and training standards have been developed with education and training providers to ensure they are relevant and will mean that students who successfully complete a social work course can meet our professional standards and can apply to be registered with us.

We have published 2 sets of standards for education and training providers: 2019 and 2021. The standards for 2019 mirrored those used by HCPC but with some minor changes. The 2019 education and training standards were the standards by which we monitored, inspected and approved courses up until 1 September 2021.

The 2021 standards came into force from 1 September 2021.

Admissions processes must be robust, transparent, ensure that applicants meet course entry requirements and involve a range of stakeholders

Education and training providers will:

1.1  Confirm on entry to the course, via a holistic/multidimensional assessment process, that applicants:

  • have the potential to develop the knowledge and skills necessary to meet the professional standards;
  • can demonstrate that they have a good command of English;
  • have the capability to meet academic standards; and
  • have the capability to use information and communication technology (ICT) methods and techniques to achieve course outcomes.

1.2  Ensure that applicants’ prior relevant experience is considered as part of the admissions processes.

1.3  Ensure that employers, placement providers and people with lived experience of social work are involved in admissions processes.

1.4  Ensure that the admissions processes assess the suitability of applicants, including in relation to their conduct, health and character. This includes criminal conviction checks.

1.5  Ensure that there are equality and diversity policies in relation to applicants and that they are implemented and monitored.

1.6  Ensure that the admissions process gives applicants the information they require to make an informed choice about whether to take up an offer of a place on a course. This will include information about the professional standards, research interests and placement opportunities.

Outcome

Social work courses recruit students who have the capability and suitability towards developing the knowledge and skills necessary to meet the professional standards and become registered upon completion of the course.

The learning environment must provide education and training opportunities that enable students to develop their skills and knowledge across all areas of social work, gain required experience in practice settings and meet the professional standards in supportive, supervised and safe settings.

Education and training providers will:

2.1  Ensure that students spend at least 200 days (including up to 30 skills days) gaining different experiences and learning in practice settings.

Each student will have:

  • placements in at least two practice settings providing contrasting experiences; and

  • a minimum of one placement taking place within a statutory setting, providing experience of sufficient numbers of statutory social work tasks involving high risk decision making and legal interventions.

2.2  Provide practice learning opportunities that enable students to gain the knowledge and skills necessary to develop and meet the professional standards.

2.3  Ensure that while on placements, students have appropriate induction, supervision, support, access to resources and a realistic workload.

2.4  Ensure that on placements, students’ responsibilities are appropriate for their stage of education and training.

2.5  Ensure that students undergo assessed preparation for direct practice to make sure they are safe to carry out practice learning in a service delivery setting.

2.6  Ensure that practice educators are on the register and that they have the relevant and current knowledge, skills and experience to support safe and effective learning.

2.7  Ensure that policies and processes, including for whistleblowing, are in place for students to challenge unsafe behaviours and cultures and organisational wrongdoing, and report concerns openly and safely without fear of adverse consequences.

Outcome

Social work courses deliver, in partnership with practice placement providers, practice learning experiences that support readiness to practise at point of graduation. This includes providing learning opportunities that reflect and allow students to learn from the diversity of the communities they will work with.

Social work courses must be governed, resourced and managed using effective and transparent processes in collaboration with employers and people with lived experience of social work. There must be processes to monitor and manage the quality and delivery of courses.

Education and training providers will:

3.1  Ensure courses are supported by a management and governance plan that includes the roles, responsibilities and lines of accountability of individuals and governing groups in the delivery, resourcing and quality management of the course.

3.2  Ensure that they have agreements with placement providers to provide education and training that meets the professional standards and the education and training qualifying standards. This should include necessary consents and ensure placement providers have contingencies in place to deal with practice placement breakdown.

3.3  Ensure that placement providers have the necessary policies and procedures in relation to students’ health, wellbeing and risk, and the support systems in place to underpin these.

3.4  Ensure that employers are involved in elements of the course, including but not limited to the management and monitoring of courses and the allocation of practice education.

3.5  Ensure that regular and effective monitoring, evaluation and improvement systems are in place, and that these involve employers, people with lived experience of social work, and students.

3.6  Ensure that the number of students admitted is aligned to a clear strategy, which includes consideration of local/regional placement capacity.

3.7  Ensure that a lead social worker is in place to hold overall professional responsibility for the course. This person must be appropriately qualified and experienced, and on the register.

3.8  Ensure that there is an adequate number of appropriately qualified and experienced staff, with relevant specialist subject knowledge and expertise, to deliver an effective course.

3.9  Evaluate information about students’ performance, progression and outcomes, such as the results of exams and assessments, by collecting, analysing and using student data, including data on equality and diversity.

3.10  Ensure that educators are supported to maintain their knowledge and understanding in relation to professional practice.

Outcome

Social work courses are governed, managed, continually improved and administered to a consistent quality and resourced sufficiently to ensure they meet the expectations of the regulator.

Courses must be designed to enable students to develop the required behaviours, skills, knowledge and understanding to meet the professional standards.

Education and training providers will:

4.1  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.

4.2  Ensure that the views of employers, practitioners and people with lived experience of social work are incorporated into the design, ongoing development and review of the curriculum.

4.3  Ensure that the course is designed in accordance with equality, diversity and inclusion principles, and human rights and legislative frameworks.

4.4  Ensure that the course is continually updated as a result of developments in research, legislation, government policy and best practice.

4.5  Ensure that the integration of theory and practice is central to the course.

4.6  Ensure that students are given the opportunity to work with, and learn from, other professions in order to support multidisciplinary working, including in integrated settings.

4.7  Ensure that the number of hours spent in structured academic learning under the direction of an educator is sufficient to ensure that students meet the required level of competence.

4.8  Ensure that the assessment strategy and design demonstrate that the assessments are robust, fair, reliable and valid, and that those who successfully complete the course have developed the knowledge and skills necessary to meet the professional standards.

4.9  Ensure that assessments are mapped to the curriculum and are appropriately sequenced to match students’ progression through the course.

4.10  Ensure students are provided with feedback throughout the course to support their ongoing development.

4.11  Ensure assessments are carried out by people with appropriate expertise, and that external examiner(s) for the course are appropriately qualified and experienced and on the register.

4.12  Ensure that there are systems to manage students’ progression, with input from a range of people, to inform decisions about their progression including via direct observation of practice.

4.13  Ensure that the course is designed to enable students to develop an evidence-informed approach to practice, underpinned by skills, knowledge and understanding in relation to research and evaluation.

Outcome

Social work courses are shaped by the needs and insights of academia, employers, practitioners and people with lived experience of social work. This is to ensure a continually evolving curriculum which is evidence informed, matches the contemporary demands of the whole sector, is delivered by appropriately qualified and experienced professionals, and produces informed, capable, prepared and motivated graduates who deliver safe and effective services.

Students must receive appropriate educational and pastoral support.

Education and training providers will:

5.1  Ensure that students have access to resources to support their health and wellbeing including:

  • confidential counselling services;
  • careers advice and support; and
  • occupational health services.

5.2  Ensure that students have access to resources to support their academic development including, for example, personal tutors.

5.3  Ensure that there is a thorough and effective process for ensuring the ongoing suitability of students’ conduct, character and health.

5.4  Make supportive and reasonable adjustments for students with health conditions or impairments to enable them to progress through their course and meet the professional standards, in accordance with relevant legislation.

5.5  Provide information to students about their curriculum, practice placements, assessments and transition to registered social worker including information on requirements for continuing professional development.

5.6  Provide information to students about parts of the course where attendance is mandatory.

5.7  Provide timely and meaningful feedback to students on their progression and performance in assessments.

5.8  Ensure there is an effective process in place for students to make academic appeals.

Outcome

Social work students have effective educational and pastoral support to progress through their course and develop the knowledge and skills necessary to meet the professional standards when they qualify.

Education and training providers will:

6.1  The threshold entry route to the register will normally be a bachelor’s degree with honours in social work.

Outcome

Social work students who successfully complete approved courses are eligible to apply to join the social work register.

Education and training standards for providers

Education and training standards (2019)

Previous standards

1.1  The threshold entry route to the register will be a
bachelor’s degree with honours.

2.1  The admissions process will give both the applicant and the education provider the information they require to make an informed choice about whether to take up or make an offer of a place on a course.

2.2  The selection and entry criteria will include appropriate academic and professional entry standards.

2.3  The admissions process will ensure that applicants have a good command of English.

2.4  The admissions process will assess the suitability of applicants, including criminal conviction checks.

2.5  The admissions process will ensure that applicants are aware of and comply with any health requirements.

2.6  There will be an appropriate and effective process for assessing applicants’ prior learning and experience.

2.7  The education provider will ensure that there are equality and diversity policies in relation to applicants and that they are implemented and monitored.

3.1  The course will be sustainable and fit for purpose.

3.2  The course will be effectively managed.

3.3  The education provider will ensure that the person holding overall professional responsibility for the course is appropriately qualified and experienced and on the register.

3.4  The course will have regular and effective monitoring and evaluation systems in place.

3.5  There will be regular and effective collaboration between the education provider and placement providers.

3.6  There will be an effective process in place to ensure the availability and capacity of practice based learning for all students.

3.7  People with lived experience of social work will be involved in the course.

3.8  Students will be involved in the course.

3.9  There will be an adequate number of appropriately qualified and experienced staff in place to deliver an effective course.

3.10  Subject areas will be delivered by educators with relevant specialist knowledge and expertise.

3.11  An effective course will be in place to ensure the continuing professional and academic development of educators, appropriate to their role in the course.

3.12  The resources to support learning in all settings will be effective and appropriate to the delivery of the course and will be accessible to all students and educators.

3.13  There will be effective and accessible arrangements in place to support the wellbeing and learning needs of students in all settings.

3.14  The course will implement and monitor equality and diversity policies in relation to students.

3.15  There will be a thorough and effective process in place for receiving and responding to student complaints.

3.16  There will be thorough and effective processes in place for ensuring the ongoing suitability of students’ conduct, character and health.

3.17  There will be an effective process in place to support and enable students to raise concerns about the safety and wellbeing of people with lived experience of social work.

3.18  The education provider will ensure students, educators and others are aware that only successful completion of an approved course leads to eligibility for admission to the register.

4.1  The learning outcomes will ensure that students meet Social Work England’s professional standards.

4.2  The learning outcomes will ensure that students understand and are able to meet the expectations of professional behaviour.

4.3  The course will reflect the philosophy, core values, skills and knowledge base as articulated in any relevant curriculum guidance.

4.4  The curriculum will remain relevant to current practice.

4.5  Integration of theory and practice will be central to the course.

4.6  The learning and teaching methods used will be appropriate to the effective delivery of the learning outcomes.

4.7  The delivery of the course will support and develop autonomous and reflective thinking.

4.8  The delivery of the course will support and develop evidence based practice.

4.9  The course will ensure that students are able to learn with, and from, professionals and students in other relevant professions.

4.10  The course will include effective processes for obtaining appropriate consent from people with lived experience of social work and students.

4.11  The education provider will identify and communicate to students the parts of the course where attendance is mandatory and will have associated monitoring processes in place.

5.1  Practice based learning will be integral to the course.

5.2  The structure, duration and range of practice based learning will support the achievement of the learning outcomes and the professional standards.

5.3  The education provider will maintain a thorough and effective system for approving and ensuring the quality of practice based learning.

5.4  Practice based learning will take place in an environment that is safe and supportive for students and people with lived experience of social work.

5.5  There will be an adequate number of appropriately qualified and experienced staff involved in practice based learning.

5.6  Practice educators will have relevant knowledge, skills and experience to support safe and effective learning and, unless other arrangements are appropriate, will be on the register.

5.7  Practice educators will undertake regular training, which is appropriate to their role, students’ needs, and the delivery of the learning outcomes of the course.

5.8  Students and practice educators will have the information they need in a timely manner in order to be prepared for practice based learning.

6.1  The assessment strategy and design will ensure that those who successfully complete the course meet Social Work England’s professional standards.

6.2  Assessment throughout the course will ensure that students demonstrate they are able to meet the expectations of professional behaviour.

6.3  Assessments will provide an objective, fair and reliable measure of students’ progression and achievement.

6.4  Assessment policies will clearly specify requirements for progression and achievement within the course.

6.5  The assessment methods used will be appropriate to, and effective at, measuring the learning outcomes.

6.6  The education provider will ensure that at least one external examiner for the course is appropriately qualified and experienced and, unless other arrangements are appropriate, on the register.

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