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Reflections from the Practice Supervisor Development Programme

03 December 2018

Suzi RockettSuzi Rockett

Hello, I’m Suzi Rockett. I have been a qualified social worker for 26 years, and am presently the Social Work Practice Development Manager for children’s social care in Barnsley Council. This is my first ever blog and I’m so excited that it’s about my experience on the Practice Supervisor Development Programme (PSDP) pilot held in October.

The programme was very intensive; on reflection I don’t think any of us delegates were really prepared for. From the very second it started, it was jammed packed for the full five days. Time keeping was dead strict, (no social work clocks on this course folks!). In fairness it needed to be as we covered so, so much, from reflecting upon ourselves and how to become emotionally intelligent and reflective managers, to promoting critical analysis and thinking, exploring supervision in-depth, to finally promoting evidence informed practice for our teams and organisations. We also looked at shaping and influencing practice, developing excellent practitioners and emotionally intelligent practice supervision. I’ve come back with lots of tools, models and new ways of thinking, which I am just starting to share and pass on my learning.

What was really good (apart from the food) was it challenged my own practice and how I can deliver my own supervision and training differently, for example practice educators’ courses. I can share the learning not only with our managers, but also our experienced practice educators, students and our newly qualified social workers (NQSW).

I have already started to incorporate the programme into NQSW supervision sessions, and in particular focusing on the emotional impact of social work and emotional containment. An easy way I made changes was to start using genograms more often in supervision.

Genograms are diagrams that map out relationships within a family and across generations (usually three). I use this as a tool to increase the supervisee’s understanding of the key issues in a child’s story. It really does get people to start thinking more deeply and critically about their cases, as this lends itself nicely to what supervisees know and don’t know and what they need to know about a family.

The course did require us to practice with each other. Yes there was role play (I like roleplay…shyness never was in my DNA) and come on, there is no such thing as free cake! I met some fabulous people from across England, which again enabled me to see things from a different perspective.

I learnt some new methods (for example, Bells that Ring) that are really good for when a supervisee ‘gets stuck’ with a case, as it helps the person presenting about a family to think things through for themselves.

The ‘presenter’ presents work with a family to a colleague (known as a consultant for the exercise). The consultant then asks the presenter questions using curiosity, whilst the ‘observers’ watch the conversation. After the conversation has taken place, the observers hold a reflective conversation, which the presenter and consultant listen to. The whole group then reflects on the process, enabling discussion and learning. I know this sounds a wee bit complicated, but once we got our heads around it, we found it really useful.

We were the guinea pigs for the PSDP pilot, and we were required to evaluate at every point, funnily enough this little Rockett’s fuel did feed into a few discussions.

We were very, very well looked after, the food was amazing; the facilitators were fantastic and I felt they really valued our contribution for the future training programme, as we were evaluating the PSDP pilot.


My five top tips for future PSDP delegates

  1. PLEASE do your homework beforehand; it will really prepare you for the intensity of the course, and you will get much more from it.
  2. Get yourself registered and familiar with using the MOODLE site, it is full all the learning materials from the programme, as well as other good stuff to support your own learning and that of others.
  3. Allocate time NOW in your diary to plan for how you are going to apply your learning following your return. This will provide you with the time to really consider what you have learnt from the course and how you will apply it to your practice. A gentle warning, if you don’t, you will be at risk of simply getting sucked back into doing what you always do, due to the real pressures of work.
  4. The course will be followed up to evaluate the impact. You will receive one-to-one support sessions. Work with others (we set up our own WhatsApp group, Trailblazers), team-up with a buddy and/or set up an inspiration group for people from your own organisation. This will support longevity and commitment and help embed the learning.
  5. Setup a meeting with senior managers to discuss how the learning is going to get fully embedded at a strategic and systematic level.

Finally, it truly felt an utterly privilege to be given this wonderful opportunity, yes it was hard work, but it was also lots of fun, with plenty of laugher. I hope you enjoy it as much as we all did.


About the author

Suzi Rockett has been a qualified social worker for 26 years and is the Social Work Practice Development Manager for children’s social care in Barnsley Council.

Twitter: @suzirockett


Practice Supervisor Development Programme

The Practice Supervisor Development Programme (PSDP), funded by the Department for Education, aims to provide high-quality continuous professional development for up to 700 newly-appointed Practice Supervisors. These are social workers taking up their first role in which they are responsible for supporting and developing the practice of others.

The wholly not-for-profit consortium led by Research in Practice includes: The Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation TrustUniversity of Sussex and Goldsmiths, University of London. The consortium will work with a number of skilled ‘local delivery partners’ comprising universities, Teaching Partnerships and trusted CPD providers in every region.

Find out more about the PSDP.

Frequently asked questions about the PSDP.


Related Research in Practice resources and events 

Analysis and critical thinking in assessment: Resource Pack

Analysis and critical thinking are central to good practice in children's services, whether assessing if a child has additional needs or proceeding with a complex child protection inquiry.

The handbook includes key research and practice messages around analysis and critical thinking in assessment.

Building practice supervision in learning organisations: Partnership Conference

Supervision is a cornerstone of professional development and practice improvement. Supervision allows practitioners and their managers to reflect on practice, learn from experiences and it can provide encouragement, support and help build emotional resilience.

This year's Partnership Conference will explore learning from new initiatives, including emerging programmes of research and innovation in supervision practice across Children's Services.

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