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Education of social workers must be grounded in research

13 February 2014 | last updated: 10 December 2015

UCU today defended the quality of social work teaching in universities, following the publication of a report by Sir Martin Narey which makes a number of recommendations about the training of child social workers.

The report, which was commissioned by the Secretary of State for Education, asks the government to consider whether a new non-degree qualification should be developed for social workers. However, UCU said this risked creating a two-tier system of what the report terms 'intellectually more able' graduates and 'assistants', as well as compromising the important theoretical underpinning of social work study.

UCU general secretary, Sally Hunt, said: 'While Sir Martin Narey's report is undoubtedly well-meaning, we have grave concerns about his proposal to reduce the academic rigour currently expected of those who qualify as social workers. Universities are well placed to select appropriate candidates for their courses, recognising the value of different experience and prior learning, and we do not believe that a two-tier system would improve the standard of social work education overall.

'We do, however, agree with the report's assertion that large class sizes potentially inhibit the quality of teaching at some institutions. Clearly, there is a need to maintain high quality in the teaching of social work, and this cannot be done where courses are massively oversubscribed. We don't yet know how the planned expansion of student places in higher education might compound this problem, and we urge the government to monitor this closely as the number of places is increased.'

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