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Professional development


We are leading a number of areas of reform, from helping universities select the right people at interview, to advising on the curriculum, to ensuring that social workers in practice receive the support they need to operate effectively. This page provides guidance for practice educators, professional educators, employers and in-house development teams, university lecturers and other staff to understand how the changes will affect them.

All educators will need to work in partnership with others, in particular employers and service users, to ensure the success of these reforms. 

Improving the quality and consistency of initial qualifying social work education and training. This report brings together proposals for implementing three of the four Social Work Task Force (SWTF) recommendations to improve the quality and consistency of initial qualifying social work education and training.

We have developed a range of membership services to support you in understanding and meeting professional standards-join us. 

Curriculum guides for qualifying social work education

This series has been produced by The College of Social Work in collaboration with social work educators, with support from the Higher Education Academy.

The guides are intended to support curriculum development, educators in HEIs, practice educators and employers representatives.

The guides should be considered in conjunction with the Health and Care Professions Council Standards of Proficiency for Social Work, the Professional Capabilities Framework statements for qualifying level and the QAA Benchmarking Statement for Social Work.

List of guides currently available:

For further information about the development or review of these guides or to give feedback please contact: Hilary Burgess, Academic Associate, Higher Education Academy

Curriculum guides for CPD

This guide has been produced by The College of Social Work with support from the Department for Education and the Higher Education Academy. The Family Justice Review recommended that The College of Social Work should issue guidance to employers and HEIs on what the court expects social workers to present, how to present it and what the court will expect them to have done before the proceedings start. The core aim of this guide is to assist training providers in equipping social workers to play a full, timely and constructive part in care proceedings and the work that precedes care proceedings. It reflects the Professional Capabilities Framework (PCF) recognised stages of career progression. The guide builds on skills developed at qualifying level and therefore assumes some baseline knowledge. 

Curriculum guide for CPD on pre-proceedings and court-related skills in cases concerning the care and protection of children (Alison Brammer and Jane Boylan, Keele University, with Sally Dowding, Birmingham Civil and Family Justice Centre)

Professional capabilities framework

The Professional Capabilities Framework (PCF) was developed by the Social Work Reform Board, and is being introduced as the single way in which social workers should think about and plan their careers and professional development. It will serve as a backdrop to both initial social work education and continuing professional development after qualification. The PCF has been developed by social workers for social workers. It is a ‘living’ document, in that it is likely to develop as the profession develops. It is owned by The College on behalf of the profession.

The PCF, as the professional standard for social work, should form the backdrop for all work that educators and trainers undertake with social workers and their employers. The capabilities are not in themselves assessment criteria, but can be used to frame not only content of learning programmes, but also the teaching, learning and assessment strategies that underpin them.

Assessing practice using the PCF guidance

Assessing practice using the PCF - assessor report

Capabilities rather than competences

The move from the concept of ‘competence’ to that of ‘capability’ reflects the desire for social work education and development to move away from a mechanistic ‘tick box’ approach to a more holistic approach and one which expects educators, students and professional social workers to consider people’s professional capabilities in a rounded way. It will help people to identify areas for development.

The capabilities are much broader than competences, and are not designed or intended to be ‘assessment criteria’. We do, though have to make sure that we know what the capability statements mean, and how we can judge whether they have been demonstrated or not. In some cases, particularly where these are ‘soft skills’ such as communication, this can be challenging to do. However, we do believe that we need to do this: We’ve got to make what’s important assessable, not make what’s assessable important.

Domains, domain headline statements and capability statements by level

There are nine domains in the PCF, as illustrated in the ‘fan’ diagram. Each has an overarching headline ‘statement’, and a paragraph illustrating what is meant.The PCF starts from the point at which a student applies for a place on a social work course, as it advises admissions tutors on what evidence they should look out for when they select people.

This means that during any social work course there will be four points of assessment:

  1. Entry requirements for social work education - By the point of entry to social work (SW) qualifying programmes, prospective students/candidates should demonstrate awareness of social context for social work practice, awareness of self, ability to develop rapport and potential to develop relevant knowledge, skills and values through professional training.
  2. Readiness for direct practice - by the point of assessment of readiness for direct practice (prior to first placement), students should demonstrate basic communication skills, ability to engage with users, capacity to work as a member of an organisation, willingness to learn from feedback and supervision, and demonstrate basic SW values, knowledge and skills in order to be able to make effective use of first practice placement.
  3. End of first placement - by the end of the first placement, students should demonstrate effective use of knowledge, skills and commitment to core values in social work in a given setting in predominantly less complex situations, with supervision and support. They will have demonstrated capacity to work with people and situations where there may not be simple clear-cut solutions.
  4. End of last placement/qualification - by the end of qualifying programmes,  newly qualified social workers should have demonstrated the knowledge, skills and values to work with a range of user groups, and the ability to undertake a range of tasks at a foundation level, the capacity to work with more complex situations; they should be able to work more autonomously, whilst recognising that the final decision will still rest with their supervisor; they will seek appropriate support and supervision. These capabilities will have been demonstrated through the last placement together with the final assessment of other work in the qualifying programme.

At each of these levels, the PCF indicates what levels of capability are needed to successfully pass that aspect of the training.

Progression between levels is characterised by development in terms of a range of factors, including complexity, risk and autonomy of decision making. 

Assessed and supported year in employment

As soon as students graduate, they will be eligible to apply for entry onto the HCPC register of social workers. In their first post  they will undertake an assessed and supported year in employment (ASYE). The capabilities for the ASYE are clearly set out in the PCF, and educators will want to ensure that their support and opportunities for learning create an environment for newly qualified social workers to reach those capabilities. After completion of the ASYE, practitioners have a choice of how to meet their continuing professional development needs.

Assessing social work practice using the PCF: integrated critical reflective practice

The College has produced the following two documents on assessing social work practice using the PCF: integrated critical analysis and reflective practice, and principles for gathering and using feedback from people who use services and those who care for them.  

Working in partnership

Educators will want to work with employers and social workers to help agree what needs to be learned, and what methods of learning will be most appropriate. CPD programmes can then be developed to meet the identified needs. Educators have a clear role in helping employers to meet the Standards for employers of social workers in England and Supervision Framework, developed by the Reform Board and in particular, the training and development for supervision, workload planning and recruitment in line with the PCF. When providing learning opportunities in collaboration with employers, educators will want to ensure that learners are being supported appropriately and in line with the supervision and support recommendations within the standards for employers. For qualifying education this will involve using the QAPL tool and ensuring that practice educators are skilled and qualified in line with the practice educator standards. For support of CPD, supervision and protected time for study will be key issues to discuss with employers commissioning education or training.

HCPC social worker student suitability scheme in England

The HCPC has decided that social work students in England should not be registered and have put in place a new suitability scheme to deal with concerns about social work students.

To find out more about this please visit the the HCPC website:

You can also email the HCPC on if you have specific queries not covered by the information on their website.

Quality assurance in practice learning tools

Partnerships offering endorsed qualifying social work programmes are required by TCSW to have in place quality assurance processes in relation to their placement provision. QAPL (Quality Assurance in Practice Learning) is one such process that can be used. The documents below include guidance on the process and tools which enable the collection and analysis of placement related data.