Mr Gove is not just making arrangements to hide problems with ‘free’ schools policy, plans are in place to ensure Frontline is a success…whatever happens…

As Mr Gove’s plan to ensure problems with ‘free’ schools do not become an election issue are exposed, Mr Gove appears to have already put plans in place to ensure Frontline is a success, whatever the real outcome…..

Josh MacAlister has established links with the Civil Service Fast Stream for Frontline participants who decide they do not want to be involved in direct social work practice. So those who do 2 years can go straight into policy/government!

So much for addressing the major issue of retention in social work practice then!

I first blogged on this issue in September last year, since then Frontline has become a reality. None of us know for sure how this will turn out, some, like me, think we have a good idea.

This will be a costly experiment that will do little to address the real issues facing social workers working with children and families.

This belief is based partly on my knowledge of the profession, in terms of practice experience, and my experience of educating social workers and listening to their experiences and concerns. Another source of information on which to gauge the likely success of Frontline has been Teach First, the blueprint for Frontline. Teach First came to fruition due to issues about the quality of teachers coming through the education system and issues around the retention of teachers. Having been in existence for over a decade now I think it’s useful in identifying where Frontline might end up.

Recent reports suggest Teach First high flyers are already leaving teaching due to Gove’s bullying education policies. Interestingly in an interview late last year with a magazine from Cambridge University Josh MacAlister stated he has already prepared the ground for those high flyers who want to fly a lot higher than working with children and families. MacAlister has established links with the Civil Service Fast Stream for Frontline participants who decide they do not want to be involved in direct social work practice. So those who do 2 years can go straight into policy/government! So much for addressing the major issue of retention in frontline practice then! Whilst another report suggested Universities are the best place to train teachers. I wonder if in a few years the same might be said of social work education?

The findings that are beginning to emerge from Teach First are, in my view, troubling for Frontline but not unsurprising. May be it is time to get back on track and focus our efforts and funding on implementing, in full, Professor Eileen Munro’s recommendations, rather than the introduction of another educational route. I do think social work 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.

One final note, I rather liked a comment made by the interviewer of Josh MacAlister at Cambridge, after he had made much of the importance of ‘experience’

“Despite this emphasis on experience, MacAlister never trained as a social worker”.

Quite.

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About digalpin

I gained my social work qualification from the University of Southampton and worked for 14 years in mental health, disability and older people services. I am currently a senior lecturer in post-qualifying social work at Bournemouth University and am conducting research on government and societal attitudes and responses to the mistreatment of older people in health and social care provision for my doctorate. My views are my own.

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