Frontline announces academic partner – making a difference to children’s social work

It hasn’t featured much on the front pages, but a procurement decision was announced today that, if all goes well,  might have more impact on the well-being of the UK than any other contract placed this week, this month or maybe this year.

Frontline, a fast-track scheme for top graduates to enter the children’s social work profession, has appointed the University of Bedfordshire, supported by the Institute of Family Therapy at King’s College London, to be their academic partner and develop the new Frontline Academy, with Professor Donald Forrester leading the Academy.

You may have heard of Teach First, the scheme to get bright new graduates into teaching in the UK. Those participants are rapidly placed into usually challenging schools, and the idea is that whilst many of them may not stay as teachers for ever, the schools will benefit from bright enthusiastic youngsters and it will be great experience for them personally, even if some do eventually become management consultants or bankers!

Frontline is being broadly positioned on similar lines, although perhaps with more of an expectation that most of the participants will stay in social work. (Here’s more from the Economist on the idea). But without getting into technical details, the training they will be given will be somewhat different to much current social work education, and the aim is certainly to appeal to applicants who might not otherwise have considered this incredibly worthwhile career.

Frontline TimesWhy is this important? Well, the impact that outstanding social workers can have on the lives of the most vulnerable people in our society – young children in difficult homes, families and situations – is immense. And that’s not just a feel-good benefit. The cost of a small number of "problem" individuals and families to the rest of us is huge (benefits, crime, disruption) and avoiding children getting into that cycle at an early age can save a fortune, as well as improving lives.

And why are we writing about it? Frontline ran a formal procurement process to select Bedfordshire and I played a small advisory role in that exercise. It was both a very interesting and somewhat unusual procurement, and it was also a real pleasure to meet some excellent people involved in the process, generally young, very smart and very committed to what they are doing. The man behind Frontline and now the CEO is Josh MacAlister  - I won’t embarrass him by saying too much here, but just take note of his name. You will hear a lot more about him over the next 30 years I suspect.

Good luck to Frontline, Bedfordshire and everyone involved. And if you know someone who might be interested in being part of the first Frontline cohort of 100 people next summer, here are the details.

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