Making the education of social workers consistently effective

Report of Sir Martin Narey’s independent review of the education of children’s social workers.

The Secretary of State for Education asked Sir Martin Narey to review the initial education of children’s social workers and advise him of the extent to which: reforms from recent years had impacted on basic training whether there were improvements that still needed to be made Sir Martin’s report has 6 parts and makes 18 recommendations.


Earlier this year the Secretary of State for Education asked me to take a look at the initial education of children’s social workers, and advise him of the extent to which reforms to social work over the last few years had impacted upon basic training, and whether there were improvements that still needed to be made.

This has not been a formal inquiry in the sense that I have not asked for submissions of evidence nor held formal hearings. I haven’t gathered a working party around me. Instead I have had a large number of private interviews with employers, academics, students and newly employed, established and retired social workers. That approach encouraged many individuals to be rather more candid than they might otherwise have been. That has been vital.

In turn, in writing these observations, I have been frank about the deficiencies I have found. I have made eighteen recommendations, which if implemented will significantly increase the confidence we can have in the initial training, and therefore the calibre, of newly qualified social workers. The cost of implementing those recommendations would be minimal.

There are some reforms recommended here which, if accepted and implemented, would affect all universities which teach social work (not least my call for a much clearer prescription of the things a new children’s social worker needs to understand at graduation, and my suggestion that there should be greater specialisation allowed in both undergraduate and postgraduate study). But it is important for me to acknowledge at the outset that there are many universities doing a good job: they recruit students of high ability and ensure that academic standards are high. I reject entirely the suggestion that we do not currently produce some very good social workers.

But there are universities and colleges where entry and academic standards appear to be too low and where the preparation of students for children’s social work is too often inadequate. In the words of one Director of Children’s Services: “We need to lift the lid on the quality debate.” That is what I have tried to do in this report, not least because, without it, the reputation of good universities will continue to be damaged by concerns about poorer institutions. I have had excellent cooperation from officials in the Department for Education who have been simultaneously challenging and supportive. In particular, Bekah Little has been an invaluable source of advice. But this report and the recommendations are entirely my own responsibility.

Martin Narey