Frequently asked questions - Practice Supervisor Development Programme

12 July 2018

Practice Supervisor Development Programme

Research in Practice, together with a group of partners, have formed a consortium to develop and deliver a national Practice Supervisor Development Programme (PSDP) funded by the Department for Education. This page covers some of the frequently asked questions about the PSDP.

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Who is in the partnership?

Research in Practice (RiP) is leading a consortium which includes: The Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust, University of Sussex and Goldsmiths, University of London. The Consortium is supported by a network of Local Delivery Partners. These are:

Goldsmiths will act as the Local Delivery Partner for London, and University of Sussex will act as Local Delivery Partner for the South East region. Discussions are underway with the prospective Local Delivery Partner for the North East region.

What will we be doing?

Scoping and surveying the sector to gain an understanding of current best practice and then using this understanding to shape a training and development programme. This programme will be delivered with/through our Local Delivery Partners for up to 700 newly-appointed Practice Supervisors across England between November 2018 - March 2020.

What are the key values, principles and related expectations for the wider PSDP partnership?

The programme aims to provide consistent and coherent delivery that is a positive experience for participants and facilitators with the best outcomes for all concerned. We can achieve this by collectively adhering to the principles re-iterated below:

  • Be sector-facing, giving due respect to practice wisdom and making sure we engage with stakeholders at every opportunity.
  • Be open, constructive, collegiate and inclusive.
  • Be values driven, offering mutual respect and appropriate challenge where necessary.
  • Be informed by evidence.
  • Be professional, reflective and responsive.

Is the PSDP just for local authority Children’s Services?

Yes, the PSDP was commissioned by the Department for Education (DfE) and is focused on child and family social work within local authorities. We are, however, very keen to learn from and share learning with the adults’ social work sector. Any colleagues wanting to explore this issue should contact

What are the links with the National Assessment and Accreditation System?

The materials developed for both the PSDP repository and the formal course will clearly reflect – but not be limited to - the Knowledge and Skills Statement (KSS) for Practice Supervisors. The PSDP is developmental, and does not include any formal assessment. The PSDP should therefore be highly valuable and relevant for those going on to undertake the assessment and accreditation for Practice Supervisors, but the PSDP is not intended to ‘teach to the test’. 

What will be covered on the course?

The PSDP will have an applied and experiential framework, which will provide a solid grounding in the values, skills and knowledge that the evidence suggests are important for Practice Supervisors. The KSS provides a very useful framework for the course content. Based on feedback from the sector and analysis of Ofsted reports, particular attention will be paid to issues such as emotional literacy, reflective capabilities, values and ethics, parallel processes and other similar issues.

How will the regional delivery structure be managed?

Local Delivery Partners will be allocated course deliveries in their region, dependent on the final design of the programme and taking into account capacity and geographical considerations. The number of course deliveries scheduled will depend on the number of local authorities in each region. The Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust will be coordinating and scheduling course deliveries and the designated Learning and Partnership Lead at Goldsmiths University will also be on hand to assist Local Delivery Partners.

How will places be allocated?

The scoping phase (summer 2018) will determine exactly how the c. 700 places should be allocated and therefore the exact number of course deliveries. At this stage, it is envisaged that ‘wave one’ will allow up to three places per local authority, for the whole of England. We will then pause, analyse take-up and demand, and discuss with Department for Education and sector representatives how the remaining places should be targeted.

How many places will be available per local authority?

Initially, in wave one, there will be at least three places per local authority – totalling just over 450 places. Following analysis, the second wave will be determined taking into account learning from wave one, regional needs, etc and to ensure that we provide access to up to 700 participants over the two years. This will allow us to understand what is effective and in what context, ensuring the programme has maximum impact.

How many participants will there be per course?

Courses will be delivered to cohorts of up to 18 participants (with the exception of the South East, where 19 places will be available per cohort).

What will the course look like?

We haven’t finalised the design as we want to make sure we have taken into account the views of the sector, and those of people who have experienced social work support, as well as considering research in this area. Our emerging thinking is that the course will be up to five days of face-to-face learning, alongside a series of small group activities and 1:1 telephone/online individual reflective development sessions, and structured online self-directed study and reflection. The five days of face-to-face learning will include two residential modules.

The Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust will be providing 1:1 individual reflective development sessions. Sessions will be by telephone/online with each participant having two, one hour sessions. The practice development sessions / small group work (c. six participants) will run alongside the course delivery. Local Delivery Partners will discuss with course cohorts the best way of structuring these eg face to face or via online platform; grouped around themes or grouped geographically.

Who will facilitate the course?

Facilitators will be identified by the Local Delivery Partners. Each course will have two facilitators who will be experienced practitioners with experience of continuing professional development (CPD) delivery and/or will be experienced CPD facilitators from a local Higher Education Institution with good knowledge and understanding of practice. As part of their engagement with the course, these facilitators participate in a Community of Practice which will ensure the core values and principles are embedded across all Local Delivery Partners and that a consistent body of knowledge is applied across all delivery. Peer review activities between Local Delivery Partners will also quality assure the consistency of course design and delivery.

Are we just talking about 1:1 line management supervisors being able to access the course?

No, not necessarily. Practice Supervisors are defined by Department for Education as those whose professional role is to support and develop practitioners who are working directly with children and families. These Practice Supervisors may not hold formal line management roles; they may be called ‘advanced practitioners’, ‘consultant social workers’, or something similar.

Importantly, the programme is aimed at ‘newly-appointed’ Practice Supervisors – this means that participants should have taken on this role within the past 12 months.

How will local authorities get the 'right' people on the course?

The programme is aimed at newly-appointed Practice Supervisors. Employers will be provided with tools to help select prospective candidates and will be encouraged to consider how the selected participants will ensure the wider organisation can benefit from their experience on the PSDP. Additional support will be provided by the Consortium to those local authorities and ‘alternative delivery models’ (eg independent Trusts) facing specific improvement challenges, to assist them in identifying participants and creating the necessary conditions for effective learning transfer.

What about participants not being put forward by their local authority? Or those that work outside of local authorities?

An open access online repository will be created so that all social work professionals can engage with high-quality materials to support their own professional development. 

What if our local Higher Education Institution / Teaching Partnership is not one of the Local Delivery Partners?

We had to select one Local Delivery Partner per region, which means that some Higher Education Institutions and Teaching Partnerships have not been included as a Local Delivery Partner within our partnership. This is certainly no reflection on their strengths and skills; we just had to be pragmatic. We made selection decisions based on a number of factors, including how long a Teaching Partnership had been operating, how many local authorities were already accessing their CPD offer and so forth.

The PSDP does not replace the wealth of existing CPD provision available. With limited numbers of places on the PSDP, local authorities will need to select carefully which supervisors should attend the PSDP, and should certainly continue to engage with their local Teaching partnership / Higher Education Institution. Every effort will be made to ensure the PSDP builds upon and complements existing CPD. Organisations have been invited to submit any materials to the programme, and their work will be fully cited.

How are you making sure the sector is involved in your work?

The course itself will not start until November, as we are undertaking a comprehensive scoping and design phase. This phase includes:

  • Surveying the sector to understand learning needs, barriers and enablers to accessing CPD, and the strengths of existing CPD.
  • Four focus groups for Practice Supervisors.
  • Establishing a Practice Reference Group, comprised of two representatives per region – one Principal Social Worker and one experienced supervisor.
  • Issuing a survey to CPD providers and a ‘call for practice’.
  • Undertaking a research literature review.
  • Undertaking a desk-based review of sector and policy documentation – such as Ofsted reports, social work health checks, self-assessment activities etc – as well as a number of interviews with colleagues working in local authority Children’s Services to identify messages relating to practice supervision.

What about service users?

We have worked with a number of organisations to ensure that we heard from children, young people, parents and carers about what makes a good Practice Supervisor. This was done through focus groups, surveys and other consultation activity. We are grateful to the following organisations for their help with this work: Barnardo’s; Become; Catch 22 / National Leaving Care Benchmarking Forum; Family Rights Group; Grandparents Plus and TACT.

Will participation in the PSDP be accredited?

There is no intention to provide formal academic accreditation to participants, as this was not part of the contract. However, some form of recognition is planned and will be led by University of Sussex. The scoping phase (April – September 2018) will inform what exactly participants will receive on completion of the programme in terms of recognition.

How can I/my organisation submit CPD materials to the programme, and how will the work be cited?

We are inviting colleagues across the sector, including Higher Education Institutions and training providers, to share existing CPD materials that are useful to Practice Supervisors. If included in the repository, they will be fully sourced and credited.

Organisations should not submit any CPD materials that they do not have permission to share – for example if the intellectual property rights belong to someone else. We appreciate that it will not be appropriate to share some CPD materials, for example if they are commercially sensitive, but we hope that organisations will contribute what they can in order to share learning across the sector.

A call for practice was issued on Monday 11 June. There is a short submission template that should be returned to: with the subject heading ‘CPD materials’.

If materials are to be included in the repository, the PSDP team will contact submitters to ensure that we have the correct citation, as well as any organisational logo and further reading links. Materials may be adapted, and original sourced materials will be clearly referenced.

Who will have access to data about participants?

The events team at RiP, together with Local Delivery Partners, will have access to the basic data they need to book people onto the course/s. Only The Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust will have access to sensitive/ personal data (eg scores from individual skills analysis exercises, etc). Nobody else – including other Consortium members and the Department for Education – will be able to access individual participant data. Aggregated data will be available so that course take up can be monitored and promoted.

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