This week, Community Care prints an article about pressures on universities to pass students who might not ‘meet the grade’.
This has always been a concern of mine as there is an incentive on universities to ensure students graduate rather than ensure that high quality social workers are pumped out into the ‘system’. The needs are conflicting as a student can be very able academically (or not.. ) and that does not necessarily imply good practice but for as long as the degree in itself is the gateway to qualified status, the decisions are left in the hands of the universities.
Practice placements exist to ensure that it is not only on academic levels that students are assessed however there are well-documented difficulties with placement and there is not necessarily an equality of experiences between students at the same university and the way they have experiences and assessments on placement.
This is particularly heavy on my mind at the moment as I will imminently be taking a student from one of the local universities into my work place and have turned my thoughts to preparation for this.
I know from a colleague’s experience how difficult it has been to try and ‘fail’ students who have not met the standards expected to practice on a final placement and the practice assessors who have been in my team, have been leaned on heavily to keep giving more and more chances to students they felt were not achieving well enough.
I’m all for second chances but some people are not cut out for the profession and trying to force too leeway into the framework of assessment does noone any favours.
The article presented in Community Care draws parallels with the Teacher Training programmes where
‘The Training and Development Agency for Schools, which funds teacher training, has chosen to remove any incentives universities might have for retaining students who were not likely to pass the course or become competent teachers … this should be the same for social work.’
Personally, I think the proposed year following qualification in which newly graduated social workers will have to practice will help in this area. I think that the universities have not been able to be trusted with the process of training social workers – especially as concerns about appropriate placements have grown. If social work students cannot spend substantial time with social workers ‘on the job’ during their courses, then they must be compelled to subsequently.
Noone wins with a dilution of the quality of entrance to the profession and as well as rigorous academic standards, a certain amount of confidence, assertiveness and thoughtfulness is required.
If there is anything that will raise the status of the profession – something which the Task Force seems to be particularly focussed on – it is a good quality, effective workforce who are able not only to advocate on behalf of service users but also able to advocate on behalf of themselves and their profession when they see poor systems in place.