I am changing jobs soon and will be teaching on an undergraduate social work programme in a University in the South West. As part of my interview I had to give a presentation on the challenges facing Higher Education Institutions, top of the list was Frontline.
It has been difficult to keep up with Josh, I followed him on Twitter but strangely have not received any tweets since I asked him how Frontline was being funded. My understanding is Frontline is now a reality. The brightest of the bright, from ‘good’ universities in Britain are possibly, as I type, engaging in bright intelligent conversation and debates guided by their Frontline mentors on the ‘Frontline’ way of doing social work. I’ve read some information about Teach First, the foundation for Frontlines approach, which suggests the first 5 weeks of the programme was spent in some form of student brain washing activity, but this is only hearsay. If it is true I wonder what such an activity might consist of in Frontline? I imagine images of Micheal Gove and his words of wisdom subliminally flashing across a screen as students learn about ‘problem families’ and what to do about ‘them’. Still I’m sure the candidates will be made to feel ‘great’ because they could have done anything with their top university degree, but instead they are choosing social work training with Frontline, which helpfully will not involve them having to fork out course fees whilst they undertake placements with no pay like the vast majority of social work students. Such altruism is a beacon to us all. I still wonder how it’s all being payed for? Frontline will also tackle the issue of retention in social work apparently. If findings from Teach First are replicated not many will stay in frontline practice for long, instead choosing other careers in policy or politics, or being fast tracked into senior management positions.
The full implementation and evaluation of Professor Eileen Munro’s recommendations would have been my first choice for positive action, not the introduction of another educational route. Also, before introducing Frontline I would like to have seen a robust review of the current strengths and weaknesses, including findings from Step-Up, of the system to establish first if current provision really is failing as suggested.
I do think social work eduction requires change, but I also believe the problems Frontline are seeking to address are not solely related to social work education. For me structural change in the way services are delivered and resourced is far more important. As is tackling issues such as inequality,poverty,poor housing, unemployment and low wages which would make the biggest difference to the lives of the families many social workers are in contact with, rather than having a social worker with a good degree from a top university.
I may be wrong, but then again……..