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No more social workers will be tested under national assessment and accreditation system, which will be replaced by scheme providing ‘better experience for social workers’
by Rob Preston on January 14, 2022 in Children, Social work leaders, Workforce
Department for Education
The Department for Education has scrapped its national assessment and accreditation system (NAAS) for children’s social workers.
It plans to introduce a replacement accreditation programme later this year, designed to be “more sustainable” and deliver “a better overall experience for social workers” that was “more meaningful” for them and employers. This is likely to be based on remote testing, rather than the in-person model delivered through NAAS assessment centres.
The decision to end the controversial scheme was welcomed by the Association of Directors of Children’s Services and UNISON, with the latter saying that it had “needlessly piled extra pressure on social workers”.
More than 1,700 accredited
Since being introduced in 2018, more than 1,700 frontline practitioners and practice supervisors have been accredited across 69 local authorities and children’s trusts. This is equivalent to just over 5% of the children’s statutory workforce. As of 2020, the scheme had cost the public purse £24m.
The DfE’s original plan was for all children’s social workers to be assessed by 2020, which it later revised to rolling out the scheme from that year following a series of trial phases.
However, since its conception in 2014 as a means of assessing social workers against core knowledge and skills requirements, it has been beset by a lack of buy-in from sector bodies and lower-than-expected engagement from practitioners. It was also stalled in 2020 by the pandemic.
No more assessments
Announcing the closure in an email to local authority NAAS leads this week, the DfE said it would hold no further tests at its assessment centers. It had already cancelled assessment centers it had planned to operate this month in order to minimize non-essential journeys as part of ‘Plan B’ Covid measures. Social workers booked for January assessments will not be able to rebook.
The NAAS online portal will close at the end of February, after which candidates enrolled in the scheme will not be able to access their results and certificates.
DfE said it would write to candidates to encourage them to download their certificates and results before the February deadline and that the NAAS site’s knowledge hub would continue to be available until 31 March.
Shift to online testing mooted
The department said it remained committed to assessing and accrediting social workers against the post-qualifying standards (formerly the knowledge and skills statements) for child and family practitioners and practice supervisors, as under NAAS.
It indicated to NAAS leads that its decision to scrap the scheme was partly motivated by the challenge and cost of delivering tests through in-person assessments.
In a Q&A seen by Community Care, it said ending the scheme would “allow us the opportunity to develop a new approach and deliver assessment on a more sustainable basis, while offering more flexibility and a better overall experience for social workers”.
“This decision has been informed by feedback from social workers and local authorities, as well as learning from other professions that have moved to remote assessment during the pandemic,” it added.
In developing the replacement scheme, the department said it would “explore the possibility of moving towards assessments that can be taken outside of traditional centers, instead making greater use of digital technology”.
“We will be ending the current model of NAAS to develop a revised approach that takes account of feedback from the sector and learnings from the pandemic, while retaining the same rigor, consistency and user-focus,” a DfE spokesperson said.
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