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Spotlight on Practice Educators

Cheryl Wall, Programme Manager, The West Midlands Social Work Teaching Partnership.

A reoccurring theme in conversations across our Teaching Partnership over the last few weeks has been how can we properly support and recognise our Practice Educators. It is a hugely rewarding and challenging role and absolutely key in ensuring that social work graduates have the right skills, values and knowledge to enter the workforce.

Local authorities within the partnership deploy, reward and support Practice Educators in different ways. Some approaches are proving very effective and we will share the learning from these initiatives and projects currently underway which are being funded by the partnership. We know though that despite all of these considerable efforts, Practice Educators need greater support and recognition, particularly when workload and staffing pressures are so intense due to the pandemic. There have been particular challenges and opportunities in adapting to remote working and fulfilling the supervision, teaching and assessment elements of the practice education role. As a partnership we will do all we can to promote the vital work that Practice Educators do, collaborating to provide Continuing Professional Development and learning opportunities and sharing systems and strategies that are proving to be effective.

More needs to be done at individual, organisational, partnership and national level to recognise and value this specialist and highly skilled role. At a network meeting for Teaching Partnerships in December organised by the Department for Education, most partnerships across the country considered that the Practice Educator Professional Standards (PEPS) should be formally recognised and approved by Social Work England as a post-registration qualification. Social workers may then be able to apply to have this specialist qualification added to their details on the online register. The register could be annotated in the same way as it is for social workers who have completed an Approved Mental Health Professional (AMHP) or Best Interests Assessor (BIA) qualification. The Department for Education are talking to Social Work England regarding other ways in which practice education can be given greater prominence and support. The teaching partnership is committed to campaigning for practice educators to get the recognition they deserve and need so it will be a regular feature in our Newsletter, website and throughout our programme of work.

Watch this space!

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