Research Report: Step Up to Social Work evaluation after 3 and 5 years (DE)

This evaluation was commissioned by the Department for Education in 2015, as part of a series of studies into the implementation and impact of the Step Up to Social Work qualifying programme.

The objectives set out by the Department for Education specified the overall aim for the study of assessing the effectiveness of Step Up to Social Work as a route into practice in child and family social work. Subsidiary goals were identified as:

  • locating and recruiting as many participants as possible from the first two cohorts, so as to create a reliable database of programme graduates;
  • finding out the destinations, current roles and levels of responsibility of these graduates at three and five years after completion of the qualifying programme;
  • obtaining the views of graduates on their likelihood of staying in social work, their career plans and the factors influencing their views;
  • obtaining their views on the extent to which Step Up to Social Work had prepared them for a social work career;
  • where Step Up to Social Work graduates had left the profession, obtaining and analysing the reasons for this; and
  • providing an objective assessment of how retention and progression rates of Step Up to Social Work graduates compare to those following other entry routes into child and family social work.

The expectation was that the findings of the evaluation would enable the Department for Education to make informed policy decisions about: the ‘value’ and ‘effectiveness’ of Step Up to Social Work as an entry route to child and family social work, and the delivery models associated with the first two cohorts of the programme; the delivery of future iterations of the programme; and the longer term strategy of developing ‘accelerated high calibre’ routes into the profession; as well as creating a stronger evidence base to inform subsequent decisions by local authorities about taking part in Step Up to Social Work.

The longitudinal and multi-dimensional nature of the evaluation task in turn necessitated a methodological approach which incorporated a variety of research questions, data sources and analytical strategies, producing an integrated overview of the continuing impact of Step Up to Social Work. For these reasons, a mixed methods approach was adopted, including both quantitative and qualitative elements.

These are able to provide both a broad picture of the changing patterns of the early careers of programme graduates and a sense of their own perceptions and motivations as they negotiate career pathways. The subsequent analysis is thus able to integrate these diverse aspects of the study and draw out robust conclusions relevant to the initial questions set out for the evaluation.

Download the research report here.