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The Progressive Policy Think Tank

Teach First scheme for Children's Social Work needed

The successful Teach First model should be used to meet the growing need for quality graduates in children's social work, according to a new report published by the think tank IPPR today.

The report recommends establishing an independent social enterprise - called Frontline - to attract the best people into one of Britain's toughest professions.

Last year only five Oxbridge graduates started training as social workers, compared to the eight percent of Oxford graduates who applied for Teach First.

Children's social work currently faces significant reputational challenges, high vacancy rates and difficulties attracting the brightest graduates. Now more than ever the profession needs an innovative plan to raise the quality of applicants, improve standards on the frontline and help stem the staffing crisis.

Josh MacAlister, report author and Teach First ambassador, said:

"This is a call for change to the profession and the government. It is not inevitable that social work remains one of Britain's least appealing careers when it is in fact one of the most demanding and important. A scheme like this could transform perceptions of social work and contribute to the huge task of tackling social disadvantage."

Lord Andrew Adonis, former Schools Minister and Downing Street policy adviser, who chairs the steering group for the project, said:

"I was in care as a youngster and I owe a huge amount to brilliant social workers.  For tens of thousands of children each year social workers not only make a profound difference to their life chances; they are often the single bridge between danger and safety in a child's life.  Yet too many of the most vulnerable children in society - those in care or at serious risk of harm - are getting neither the protection nor the opportunities they deserve.

"When Teach First was launched the sceptics were all about. Teach First confounded the sceptics and I believe Frontline will too."

Mike Livingstone, Manchester's Director of Children's Services, said

"Social work is a vital role which, when done well,  does help to protect the lives of the most vulnerable children in society. I very much welcome and support the proposals for Frontline. This seems a really positive step forward in attracting, recruiting, developing and retaining high calibre people into the vital profession of Social Work at a very important time. Whilst we have made good progress in Manchester we are keen to learn the lessons from the fast-track training programme Teach First and apply them to Social Work.  Frontline provides the opportunity for this and I look forward to working with colleagues to make this a reality."

Notes to editors:

1. The Steering Group for the project has included the British Association of Social Workers (BASW), the newly formed College of Social Work, and senior social workers and academics. There has also been ongoing dialogue with training providers and graduates.

2. Teach First was founded in 2002 as an independent charity to address the recruitment of teachers in disadvantaged schools in England. Teach First students complete 'a short, sharp and tough' residential training programme of six weeks, after which they are placed in a challenging school. The graduates teach for a fixed time period of two years in the same school, similar to most graduate employers' fast track training schemes. During this time they work with higher education institutions and teachers to continue their training, and they gain a PGCE qualification after successful completion of their first year of the programme, making them fully qualified teachers.

Teach First is a two-year programme, and graduates are not committed to remain in teaching after the two years. This is key for attracting graduates to the programme, especially those who would not otherwise consider teaching, as they are free to go into other professions.

Contact:

Tim Finch, 07595 920 899,  t.finch@ippr.org