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New education and training standards for social workers

By Gemma Raw

The new Education and Training Standards from Social Work England came into force on 1 September 2021, just as a new cohort of students begin the journey to becoming qualified social workers. The aim of the standards is to ensure that trainee social workers can access the best quality courses. Students who successfully complete a course with an approved provider will be fully equipped to meet Social Work England's rigorous professional standards and deliver the best support to service users, once they're fully qualified and working in a frontline social work role.

In designing the Education and Training Standards, it takes a partnership approach, working closely with providers, students and social workers. In addition, valuable input is provided by people with lived experience of various forms of social care.

Screening applicants

Social work is not the right career choice for everyone. It's important for course providers to ensure that the limited number of training places go to those with the most potential to develop a successful and productive social work career. That's why the standards say that admissions processes 'must be robust, transparent, ensure that applicants meet course entry requirements and involve a range of stakeholders". This includes carefully assessing the candidate to ensure they have the potential to develop the knowledge and skills necessary to meet the professional standards.

Practical experience

One of the key requirements of the Education and Training Standards is that students are able to spend at least 200 days learning in practice settings. This includes placements in at least two contrasting settings and a minimum of one placement within a statutory setting, where they can gain experience of tasks involving high-risk decision making and legal interventions. At the same time, course providers must ensure that, while on these placements, students receive appropriate induction, supervision, support and access to resources, as well as a realistic workload.

Student support

Social work is highly rewarding, but can also be very demanding. While it's important that students experience first-hand the pressures of being on the frontline through work placements, it can be a challenging experience for a young person with limited experience. It's one of the reasons why safeguarding the mental wellbeing of students is another important objective of the new standards. Course providers must ensure that they have access to resources to support their health and wellbeing, including confidential counselling and occupational health services.

Read the full Social Work England Education and Training Standards and find out more about the typical social work career path.