Practice Learning in Social Work

Frequently Asked Questions for Applicants to the BA(Hons) Social Work and MA Social Work Courses.

The FAQ’s have been put together to give applicants to the social work courses at the University of Wolverhampton an overview of the role of practice within the degree and to enable students to make an informed decision when considering their application.

What is practice learning?

Practice learning is the term applied to the process by which students learn in practice. Students typically learn social work practice when they are out on placement, also known as a practice placement.  

Practice placements are integral to the programme and are “the cornerstone of social work students’ learning to ensure they gain the skills they need to meet the demands of frontline practice” (The College of Social Work). 

The requirements for practice learning are set by the College of Social Work.  You will have a total of two placements; the first placement will be 70 days and the second placement will be 100 days.  You will have a further 30 days skills simulation distributed throughout the programme.  

Why do I have to do skills days?

It is a requirement for entry to the Social Work programme that you agree to participate in skills activities.  These activities help students feel what it might be like in different roles and in situations that they might not have experienced before in the context of social work practice.  This will involve acting as a social worker/professional and a service user or carer during role plays, and other learning experiences like mock assessments and taking on temporary roles within teams to achieve set tasks.   

When will I be on placement?

First placement for the BA Hons Social Work programme will normally be from January to April in your second year of study. This will be a block placement where you will normally be on placement 5 days a week. The second placement will normally be from mid-October to May in your final year of study and will mostly be 4 days a week.

For the MA Social Work the first placement will normally be from January to May in your first year of study, and will vary between 4 and 5 days per week.  The second placement will normally be from mid-October to May in your final year of study and will mostly be 5 days a week block placement.

What hours will I have to work whilst I am on placement?

Placements are full time and follow the normal working day of the setting, usually office hours, but some may be in a shift or out-of- normal hours setting, for example in residential care or an emergency duty team,  in which case you may be required other shift patterns.

What type of placements am I likely to have?

All Social Work placements are quality assured to ensure that they comply with professional requirements and meet the needs of the Social Work programme as follows:

  • The first and second placement will offer different experiences,  for example in different settings,  different service user groups (e.g. adults/children),  or methods.
  • Social Work placements will enable students to undertake statutory interventions.  This is defined by the tasks that are undertaken by students on placement, rather than the setting (e.g. local authority) or type of placement (e.g. statutory).

Will my placements be matched according to my areas of interest or preference?

Whilst we try to take account of the interests of students, placements cannot be offered on the basis of choice.  The opportunity for students to meet the standards of proficiency set by the Health and Care Professions Council is the determining factor in the organisation and management of placements.   In accordance with the College of Social Work, the emphasis of the course is based on developing generic practice skills, which can later be developed through specialist experience and training after qualification.

Will I be able to work alongside social workers in all my placements?

The majority of students will be placed in social care agencies in their first practice placement. It is likely that you will be working alongside social care workers; although in some agencies there will be a social worker who is part of the team. You will have an opportunity to work alongside social workers in your final placement.

Where will my placements be located?

The University of Wolverhampton will typically place students with local authorities with which it has placement agreements including:  Dudley, Shropshire, Telford and Wrekin, Walsall and Wolverhampton.   The University of Wolverhampton does not normally place students with any other local authority.

The University will also place students in a range of placements for which it is responsible for managing across the statutory and independent sector, for example adoption and fostering agencies, day services, schools, service user and carer led organisations,  and placements in social care settings.    Some of these may fall outside the local authorities that it has placement agreements with.  

Is it essential to be a car driver?

No, however it is the case that students who drive are easier to place.  This is quite an important factor in your final year as many local authorities are increasingly reluctant to place students who do not drive.  Local authority personnel want students to be able to get around the authority fairly quickly as they carry out visits.  The university is also able to consider a wider range of placement options for students who drive.

Will I be placed near to my home?

Whilst we endeavour to place students within reasonable travelling distance from home, or in places where travelling time does not exceed 1.5 hours, this can’t be guaranteed. 

Can I arrange my own placements?

No, the placement learning co-ordinator is provided with details of available placements. Students will be placed in a placement setting that meets the requirements of the programme and has been audited placements. The information that students provide on a professional development profile will help to determine where each student is placed.

I work for a social care agency; can I do my placement in my workplace?

If you receive a bursary you cannot be paid to do a placement in your own workplace. The university would prefer to place you in an alternative placement setting.   If you are allowed to do a placement in your work setting the university will have to ensure that the placement meets quality assurance standards and that there is a person in the agency who is trained to work effectively with you to meet the programme requirements.

Will I get any financial contribution to support travel to and from placements?

Bursary numbers are capped,  and not all students are eligible for a bursary. If you are entitled to the Social Work bursary, this will contribute towards travelling expenses to and from placement.  Further information about the Social Work bursary and how this is allocated can be accessed from the following link:  http://www.nhsbsa.nhs.uk/Students/3744.aspx

Agencies are responsible for paying your mileage when you are on placement. Payments differ depending on the local authority and agency. If you travel by public transport the agency will reimburse you the cost of your travel. Many agencies will provide you with a travel card that you use for agency business.

I have a child/children at nursery/child-minder. Can I arrive at my placement late and leave early?

Students are required to work a typical day of 7½ hours on placement. This includes a 30 minute lunch break. You will also need to factor in travel time to and fro from placement.

I have school aged children and I don’t have anybody to look after them during the half term holidays – what can I do?

You will find that most placements do continue over the half term holidays. You are advised to consider you childcare arrangements so that you can complete your placement in a timely way. Students will be expected to say at the start of the placement if there are factors which mean that they cannot adhere to the placement calendar, you will still be required to complete 70 or 100 placement days.

If you miss placement days for any reason you will have to make these days up. Students are normally supported to take time out of their placement as a practice placement needs to be a coherent experience. 

I want to continue working as it will help with my living costs; will this interfere with my placement?

Social work degree courses are demanding and typically involve students being engaged in the course either attending lectures and workshops or placement for 5 days per week.  Each credit attracts a notional 10 hours of study, thus a 20 credit module represents around 200 hours learning (including time spent at university or placement).

The University recognises that by opting to do the Social Work programme you will make a significant financial and personal investment, and that your attendance, and participation in classes, placement and independent study is a key factor in ensuring that you reach your potential, and so you are asked to reflect on how you will manage competing demands of the course when deciding on undertaking any additional work.