Keywords:practice education, practice teaching, evaluation, social work education
The future of practice education in social work in England is under discussion. An integral part of this relates to those considered qualified and appropriate to assess student social workers and the qualification framework necessary to ensure their supply. A draft Practice Educator Framework for England was published in October 2009. Fifteen partnerships of employers and Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) were invited to deliver pilot Practice Educator programmes to test out the draft framework. This paper reports the formative and final evaluations from these pilot sites and lays the foundation for considerations of the future development of practice education in England. The evaluation and the pilot were commissioned by Skills for Care and funded by the Social Work Development Partnership. In total, 321 candidates had been or were in the process of being recruited to these pilot sites; whilst 24 candidates withdrew from or deferred their studies. The findings from the evaluation indicated that the vast majority of pilot sites had accredited their programmes academically, many at Master’s degree level. Candidate feedback was predominantly positive; however, about one in eight candidates disagreed that their programme had provided them with sufficient mentoring support. A third of pilot sites have realised they do not have the numbers of stage 2 Practice Educators that qualifying placements may require. Strong partnerships between employers and HEIs and targeted funding will be needed to ensure that future programmes meet workforce development needs.