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What is a Practice Educator (PE)?

A Practice Educator is a registered Social Worker with at least 2 years post-qualifying experience who has completed the appropriate academic qualification. PEs play an important role in the education of new Social Workers, offering guidance and assessing student’s first-hand experiences of becoming a Social Worker. PEs take overall responsibility for the students learning and assessment, utilising information from his/her own assessment and other sources. The PE is the person who makes the recommendation to the course examination board about the student’s competence in relation to the PCF.

Responsibility of a PE

A PE must host a student for the duration of the student’s placement and will support, teach and assess the student’s work throughout the placement and their responsibilities are not limited to, but include:

  • Preparing for the student’s entry to the agency, including informing and involving, where appropriate, other staff.
  • Planning for the student’s induction.
  • Planning specific activities and tasks with the student to enable him/her to attain the learning objectives.
  • Allocating suitable agency work.
  • Checking and signing the calendar of days worked.
  • Negotiating time for the student to undertake 30 minutes reflection time per placement day, i.e. one and a half hours per three day, or 2 and a half hours per five-day week.
  • Facilitating weekly supervision with the student to support their work and develop their reflective practice, enhance their self-awareness, ability to relate theory and practice and ability to form sound, professional judgements and practices.  All sessions are to be recorded in the calendar of placement dates.
  • Completing Direct Observations of the student’s practice with them; at least two for the 70 day and three for the 100-day placement.
  • Offering the student appropriate, constructive feedback on his/her performance, whilst acknowledging the power imbalance between the PE and student.
  • Keeping a record of the contents of supervision sessions. 
  • Responding to and giving timely feedback (maximum 2 weeks) on 4 reflective learning logs.
  • Along with the student, preparing for and attending the Learning Agreement Meeting and Midway Meeting with the UH Tutor, and any Extraordinary Meetings as and when they arise.
  • Liaising with and alerting the Tutor and Placement Team where appropriate, of any difficulties arising in the placement.  The PE should contact the Tutor to initiate an Extraordinary meeting, should they assess that the student is not clearly on track to pass the placement.  It is important that this is done at an early enough stage to establish an action plan that will facilitate the student achieving the required standard.
  • Working with the student to ensure that all portfolio documentation is completed to the required standard and on time, including the midway and final reports.
  • Completing the QAPL feedback form and submitting it electronically to coincide with the portfolio submission. 
  • Exceptionally, the PE and the Tutor may terminate a placement where they are unable to rectify inadequacies in the learning opportunities such that the student does not have a fair chance of completing the placement successfully (see section 4).

How do I become a PE?

The University of Hertfordshire facilitates a Level 7 (30 credit) PE Course with two intakes each year (September and December). The course is suitable for registered Social Workers aspiring to become qualified PEs who have at least two years post-qualifying experience with management agreement. As part of the course, trainee PEs are expected to facilitate a student placement, therefore Social Workers wishing to undertake the course need to be currently working in an appropriate area of practice and be able to assess or mentor a student throughout the duration of the course (a whole academic year).

The aim of the course is to provide knowledge and practical skills required to practice educate Student Social Workers, to provide staff mentoring and enable work-based learning. It provides the minimum requirements to be a PE for all social work degree students and the Social Worker will achieve Stage 2 of The PE Professional Standards (PEPS) outlined on page 5.

The course is taught at the College Lane Campus at the University of Hertfordshire and is facilitated by lecturers with relevant expertise as well as by external speakers. Along with supporting either a 70 or 100 day placement whilst completing the course, trainee PEs are required to attend 7 teaching days at the University, alongside completing a portfolio which includes:

  • A Peer assessed presentation
  • 700-900 word summary of the presentation
  • Direct observations of practice
  • 3500 word assignment to reflect on practice education experience

Social Workers wishing to undertake the PE course should initially discuss this with their line manager, before seeking Service Manager approval (within HCC), having considered the additional workload on the individual, manager and the team before proceeding with an application for the course. Placement Coordinators distribute application information biannually, which specifies how to apply onto the next available course and, as part of the application process, some agencies within HSWTP conduct a short, informal meeting with trainee PEs to assess their motivation, commitment and area of specialism to ensure a wide range of teams are represented on the course. The relevant process will be communicated by each agency at the point of application.

HPFT and HCC provide funding for Social Workers to attend the PE course at the University of Hertfordshire. As the agencies have different application and funding processes, any queries should be discussed with the relevant Placement Coordinator, including whether the fees are repayable should the Social Worker leave their post within two years of starting the course.

Support offered to PEs

HSWTP is committed to providing ongoing support and development for Practice Educators. This includes offering:

  • University accredited Practice Educator training
  • Regular Practice Education support groups delivered by the Practice Education Lead and the University of Hertfordshire
  • Ongoing advice and support for from the Practice Education Lead (including the ability to book 1:1 support sessions) 
  • Practice Education toolkits containing social work theory cards, resources to support reflective supervision and copies of the practice learning curriculum
  • Annual Practice Educator masterclass
  • Additional training provided on Insights Discovery and Unconscious Bias

Extra Opportunities available to PEs

It is imperative that PEs continue their professional development once they have completed the PE qualification. HSWTP has a range of opportunities that can be undertaken by PEs, especially if they are not facilitating a student placement. The opportunities available include:

  • Practice Lecturer at the University of Hertfordshire. PEs and Social Workers now have the opportunity to be involved in the teaching of students on the BSC or MSC Social Work Programme.
  • Progress onto being a visiting lecturer at University of Hertfordshire, designing and teaching your own module.
  • Write a case study for delivery by an academic or present it yourself to students.
  • Support an academic in developing students in their readiness for practice (R4P) modules or become a member of the R4P panel assessing portfolios.
  • Host an academic in your team. University of Hertfordshire’s academics are keen to visit teams to bring contemporary teaching of the curriculum to students.
  • Attend the quarterly seasonal Social Work seminars held at the University of Hertfordshire. These sessions are for philosophical debate and promote wider thinking around a range of topics.
  • Get involved in candidate selection days for the MSC and BSC social work course. Observe, interview and decide on the best students for Hertfordshire.
  • Be a PAP member to assist in quality assuring portfolios at the University of Hertfordshire, including any terminated or failed placements.
  • Present a specialism at the PE Network.
  • Attend the University PE forums and share placement experiences.
  • Speak at the student application days about what your team does and what you expect from quality students on placement.
  • Become a social work research champion, undertake a piece of research or support an academic or student with research.
  • Put your name forward to attend the Practice Education National Conference (NOPT).

Practice Educator Policy

The Practice Educator policy aims to provide guidance to ensure a reasonable degree of standardisation for PEs within Hertfordshire County Council (HCC), Hertfordshire Partnership University NHS Foundation Trust (HPFT), the University of Hertfordshire (UH) and The Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust whilst allowing sufficient flexibility to ensure the specific needs and requirements of students can be met successfully. It is therefore not intended to be a prescriptive check-list but should be used as a working document and a source of reference to help ensure that all students have the highest quality of placement experience when placed within one of the partnership agencies.

Practice Educator Guidance

The Practice Educator Guidance document is an essential ‘handbook’ for all Practice Educators and trainee Practice Educators within the Hertfordshire Social Work Teaching Partnership (HSWTP). It provides advice on guidance from everything to assisting a student to claim back mileage, to providing helpful tips on how to conduct a pre-placement meeting.