Social Work News Innovative approach to ensure social work students are practice ready

By Lesley Warnes, Care Proceedings Case Manager, Calderdale Council

The University of Huddersfield with social work practitioners from Calderdale and Kirklees Councils held their ‘Skills Day’ event for final year students in October 2017. This event is a great example of how teaching and learning succeeds when agencies enter into a committed working relationship and the value of bringing practitioner perspectives into academic learning.

I am proud to have been involved in this event again which has gone from strength to strength. Students have given consistent feedback over the years about the value of the event which is targeted at final year, BSc and MSC student Social Workers on final placement. During the term, the students have got to know a fictitious family based upon the notion of think whole family and their circumstances whist studying theoretical models of child and adult safeguarding and associated principles of legislation and social policy. The scenario has been developed by partner agencies to provoke argument and debate with an overarching objective of consolidating skills, knowledge, theory, practice and legal literacy


The event focusses on an emerging situation when the police have exercised their powers of protection to remove a 3yr old and a 15yr old from their mother’s house after allegations of a physical altercation between the 15yr old and the mother’s partner. The 15yr old is subject to an SGO to her Maternal Grandparents who have deteriorating ill health. This is after a period of escalating concern in respect of the 15yr old that has been missing education and is considered to be at risk of CSE. The 3yr old is showing signs of neglect. The mother is pregnant with her new partner’s child. He is an asylum seeker and their relationship is characterised by alcohol misuse and violence. The Local Authority is on the verge of convening an Initial Child Protection Case Conference when events overtake. The police arrive to find the 15yr old with injuries and the 3yr old dirty, hungry and rocking whilst staring at his bedroom wall. The 3yr old is removed to foster care and the 15yr old into a residential placement. The court hearing is in 3 days’ time.


The students are divided into three groups and each group rotates around three sets of practical simulations. Each simulation lasting approximately one hour and is presented as authentically as time will allow.

  1. Breaking bad news to the parent – the decision to remove the children
  2. Direct work with the children about their change in circumstances
  3. The court room – Contested Interim Care Order Application, cross examination by the Mother’s lawyer.

Roles are carried out by the University staff and partner agencies, while the students all take turns to play the allocated Social Worker in the case throughout the three workshops.

Next Steps

The follow up event will take place in April 2018 when it is intended to follow through the legal proceedings to a final hearing. Additional partner agencies have confirmed their willingness to be involved; these include a representative from HMCTS, potentially a local District Judge and a barrister from Zenith Chambers in Leeds. This will be the second time that the follow up event will take place building on the experience in early 2017 which included Jenny Molloy (The Hackney Child), barristers from Chambers in the Bristol area, University of Huddersfield staff , Calderdale and Kirklees Council representatives.

Quotes from University of Huddersfield students

“I thought the skills day was very beneficial as it gave a more realistic idea of what it is like in court, although we were all together and more supported than in the real world. I feel this opportunity will help each of us when we are faced with a court room situation in the future. I personally would have liked more of the skills type of day as I am somewhat of an activist and learn better through the actual act of doing. I will therefore never forget the feeling of standing and being cross examined. I also feel that this has reinforced to me the need for research to be done correctly, the need to know your case and present the facts without getting flustered. It has helped me understand the difference between actual facts and an opinion even though this may be underpinned by theory. Loved the court room experience and look forward to the next opportunity to do it.” Leah

“I thought that the court experience was really useful. Lesley provided a very realistic experience when cross examining students, and her tips and advice have made me feel much more prepared for the real thing!” Anon

“I really thought it was a brilliant experience, invaluable if going on to practice, highlighting the real need in practice of knowing the ‘case’ you’ve put forward and the importance of considering from different viewpoints. I can’t praise it as a learning experience enough. (And I had felt very nervous about doing it).” Nicki

Yorkshire Urban & Rural Social Work Teaching Partnership

The Yorkshire Urban and Rural Social Work Teaching Partnership is building on the solid relationships that have developed over time between local authorities and universities. This event is a great example of how teaching and learning succeeds when agencies enter into a committed working relationship.

Thank you to all concerned and especially to the University of Huddersfield students for their enthusiasm and feedback.