Widening participation is a coverage agenda that targets to broaden get entry to and achievement in higher schooling to population corporations which have historically been less probably to engage or be triumphant, which includes college students from low-income households, care leavers, college students with disabilities, mature college students and college students from positive ethnic companies.
Social work education has traditionally been an achievement tale when it comes to widening participation. This is perhaps unsurprising. Social work and widening participation each have their historical roots in social justice. Social paintings know-how when it comes to social inclusion, managing complicated group dynamics and facilitating trade also a way that social work educators are in a high function to be leaders in this region.
Skills for Care’s trendy report on social work schooling determined 34% of students who enrolled in undergraduate or postgraduate social work guides in 2016-17 have been from black Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds (BME). This turned into up from 25% for social paintings publications in 2011-12 and higher than the common for all higher schooling courses in 2016-17 (27%). Also, 33% of undergraduate social paintings students and 45% of postgraduates enrolling in 2016-17 have been elderly over 30, compared with 15% and 33%, respectively, throughout undergraduate and postgraduate guides as a whole.
While there is still greater work to be done, in particular across the black student attainment hole, those achievements ought to be celebrated and built upon, mainly as better training institutions spend masses of hundreds of thousands on widening participation sports every yr, rarely seeing a good deal, if any, clean success.
Prior to 2011, these achievements in social work schooling had been normally acknowledged as a fine. The now-defunct General Social Care Council made reference to the achievement in widening get admission to in their 2009 and 2010 Raising Standards reviews. In 2009 the Social Work Task Force recognized that social paintings publications had been admitting a various pupil cohort and that postgraduate courses persevered to be “popular and display proper progression and fulfillment prices”.
However, extra currently those successes were described in more negative phrases. In precise, the Narey and Croisdale-Appleby report into social work education in 2014 both raised issues approximately social work student recruitment focusing an excessive amount of on widening participation, probably on the price of academic rigor.
Buying into the attitude that there are deficiencies within the students being recruited into social work, we have witnessed the speedy advent of speedy-tune schooling routes into the profession, specifically Step Up to Social Work, Frontline and Think Ahead. These new routes have been presented as the answer to the presumed deficits in social paintings pupil recruitment, by means of attracting “gifted”, “first-rate” and “excessive satisfactory” college students.
Think Ahead’s 2017 impact overview highlighted that 14% of its intake became from Oxford or Cambridge in comparison with 0.5% of entrants to social work master’s in 2011-12; the creation to Frontline’s 2016-17 annual report noted having recruited “vibrant, devoted graduates”, “a lot of whom will have foregone greater beneficial jobs”; and Step Up’s state-of-the-art regularly replied questions states that its access criteria imply that it recruits those who “have verified educational resilience to perform at a high wellknown for a sustained time period”.
In order to draw those college students, rapid-song programs promise a faster, better funded and management-focused course into the profession. Of specific words, monetary incentives are supplied (to the track of £16,756 to £19,833 in line with the year for those beginning this educational yr), making those routes by way of far the maximum highly-priced manner (for the taxpayer) to qualify a social worker.
However, to be had records point to speedy-tune programs recruiting fewer people from disadvantaged backgrounds than different social paintings educational routes:
The 2016 assessment of Frontline determined that students were “more likely to be more youthful, white, and from better socioeconomic backgrounds” than a comparator organization from different guides;
The 2013 evaluation of Step Up located that, at the same time as one in 8 white candidates had been provided a place, none of the 132 black British-African candidates got past the assessment center level;
Self-said figures from Think Ahead in 2017 confirmed that 16% of college students have been from BAME backgrounds, nicely beneath the common for postgraduate social paintings publications.
How is that this going on?
Though present-day figures from Frontline show improvements on range measures among its 2017 and 2019 cohorts, its BAME intake charge of 18% stays nicely below the social work common. There are some feasible factors for why fast-song programs have advanced in this way. Most drastically, the financial incentives available to them have supported the recruitment of college students with mainly robust educational credentials, in a manner that conventional college programs are unable to. Considering the English education machine has been proven to consistently reward prior gain, it must no longer be unexpected that this technique results in greater advantaged college students on those programs.
However, there are different elements that may provide an explanation for the demographic disparities. The speedy-music nature of those programs approaches that by necessity they’re in depth in nature and Think Ahead and Frontline each encompass a summertime institute, over five or six weeks, in a particular vicinity that all candidates ought to attend. In the reviews of both Frontline and Step Up, students have cited the assignment of balancing their study with different obligations, which includes caring. Considering mature and running-magnificence college students are more likely to have these types of duties, again it ought to not be sudden that this affects equality of getting admission to.