Press release

First ever chief social worker for children and fast-track training to lead social work reform

Education Secretary Michael Gove today announced the appointment of a children's chief social worker and new training for top graduates.

The Chief Social Worker for Children and Families, Isabelle Trowler - a social worker for many years who transformed children’s services in Hackney - will lead reform of the profession to deliver the best for children and families. The Frontline training scheme will recruit the highest-achieving graduates and train them as social work leaders in a specially tailored programme.

Education Secretary Michael Gove said:

Good social workers literally save lives; the bad can leave them in ruins. I am delighted that Isabelle Trowler has agreed to lead our reform programme, to challenge as well as to champion the profession so that vulnerable children and families are better protected.

I am also very pleased to announce our support for Frontline, an exciting proposal and a real challenge for the brightest applicants who will have the privilege and satisfaction of helping to improve the lives of the most vulnerable children in the country.

Chief Social Worker Isabelle Trowler, who helped design the Frontline curriculum, said:

I know the best social work can transform lives but too often we only hear about the things that go wrong. I want to raise standards throughout the profession so that every social work team in the country is as good as the best.

Children’s social work is one of the hardest jobs a person can accept, and offers a unique opportunity to work with the most vulnerable families in the country. I am very excited by the opportunity I have to champion social work as well as challenge the profession, its employers and educators too, to deliver the very best for families.

The Chief Social Worker for Children and Families has been appointed as a senior civil servant to work with the profession to:

  • improve performance in social work
  • lead reform in the profession
  • champion and spread best practice

The Education Secretary also announced today government backing for Frontline, a programme offering the brightest graduates the opportunity to train as social workers, with a specially tailored fast-track curriculum and intensive in-work leadership training.

The Frontline pilots will begin recruiting from this September, with the training beginning in September 2014. The initial cohort of 100 graduates will be offered:

  • intensive summer school training at a leading university
  • 2 years’ hands-on work in a local authority alongside further university-based study
  • qualification as a social worker at the end of the first year and the opportunity to complete a master’s degree in year 2
  • intensive leadership training
  • a salary comparable with a Teach First trainee, rising to that of a qualified social worker in the second year

Josh MacAlister, Frontline CEO, said:

Great social workers change lives. Today’s announcement gives us an exciting opportunity to bring the best people into one of Britain’s toughest jobs. Frontline will be totally focused on recruiting and developing outstanding social workers to lead change for disadvantaged children.

Lord Andrew Adonis, Frontline chair, said:

I know first hand the importance of having a great social worker. There is an urgent need to transform life chances for abused and neglected children and Frontline will play a vital part in addressing this national challenge. In 10 short years, Teach First has helped make teaching one of the top career choices in the country. Frontline can now do the same for social work.

Today’s announcements underline the government’s commitment to improving the skills and training of the social work workforce.

Since 2010 we have spent over £184 million on the social work bursary and Step Up to Social Work, a training programme for career changers. The first 168 Step Up participants qualified as social workers last year. Over 80% work with the local authority where they trained and the next cohort is almost doubling the number of places available.

Earlier this year the government extended the assessed and supported year in employment (ASYE) programme until 2015 so that newly qualified social workers have additional support and professional development, during their first year in work.

We have also asked Sir Martin Narey to look at the quality of education and training for social workers. He will report to the Secretary of State later this year.

Notes to editors

  1. As Assistant Director for Children’s Social Care in Hackney from 2006 to 2011, Isabelle Trowler re-designed social work practice, helping to transform it from top to bottom and securing a ‘good with outstanding features’ rating from Ofsted. Isabelle also advised the Munro review about the redesign of children and families social work. She will advise the department on its ongoing social work reform programme and will take up her post full time in September.

  2. Frontline has been developed in conjunction with ARK UK. It builds on a report published by IPPR. Recruitment will begin in September 2013 for the first cohort to start training in summer 2014.

  3. A new cohort of the Step Up to social work scheme for career changers will begin training in January 2014. More information is available on the Department for Education’s webiste

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