Frontline and Think Ahead are new routes into children’s and mental health social work respectively for graduates with a 2:1 degree or better. The principle behind them – derived from Teach First – is to attract the “brightest and best” into a job / career they may not otherwise have considered.
My feelings about these social work training programmes have developed over time. Initially I wasn’t keen, but now I feel that anything which promotes social work as a good profession should be, broadly, welcomed.
How my feelings have developed have probably reflected the way the programmes themselves have been refined since their inception. Where before there was arguably an elitist, Oxbridge focus on who the programme’s participants might be, now it feels they’re much more interested in good graduates from a broader set of universities.
I wonder, though, if by focusing only on people graduating from university with 2:1s or above we’re missing an opportunity?
What if, as well as this, we had well-resourced and targeted recruitment campaigns focused on bringing people into social work who are likely to graduate cum laude from the University of Life?
These would be people who never made it to university; a high proportion of them probably wouldn’t have A-Levels. They will have faced adversity at many points in their lives and been used to navigating a whole host of difficult environments. But, despite the many challenges they will have encountered, their character, resilience and way of thinking has meant they have flourished.
If people like this became social workers, imagine the experience and perspectives they could bring to social work! Imagine the difference they could make to people whose lives they would truly understand!
We could call such programmes Breadline or Left Behind – anything that reflected the exact opposite of what Frontline and Think Ahead represents. Without denigrating these existing schemes, though, I think we’d find ourselves with another group of people whose contribution to social work could be significant.
Now, if only we could a think tank to take up the idea…