“Looking back, moving forward” seems apt as we move into another year, supporting the Scottish Practice Learning community.  This was the title of our half-day learning event, incorporating our AGM, on 29 November 2017.  The event was held at the University of Edinburgh, in collaboration with our colleagues in Social Work, who were celebrating 100 years of Social Work at the University.  Whilst a mere babe in comparison, ScOPT celebrates 18 years of supporting practice education in Scotland.

Professor Viv Cree hosted the event.  Her first guest was Wendy Paterson, an alumnus of the university and a former member of staff who is well known and respected in the field of social work education and practice learning.  Wendy reflected on her pathway through Social Work training and her extensive experience thereafter in supporting Social Work education both in practice learning and in the university.  Like many of us, she noted the importance of her placements and the qualities of a supportive and challenging practice educator.  She talked about the social work programme “taking a chance“ with her as she was only 19 - how often do we do that with the young people who leave school and come directly into our programmes and placements?  She discussed how her experiences of working and then supporting students in health and social work settings contributed to her commitment to interdisciplinary training and learning. Wendy was awarded the Social Work Centenary Award for Services to Social Work at the University of Edinburgh.

The University of Edinburgh has developed a page on their website to mark their centenary.  One of the interesting aspects of this is the timeline which illustrates the significant moments in the history of Social Work education and the development of and recognition of practice learning. It is illuminating to consider the historical context of the many changes and developments in ideas about and commitments to social work education and social work as a profession.

Our other guests - Marianne Hughes, Pat MacCowan, Linda Grierson and Fiona Stansfield, who have all been involved with and supported Social Work education and Practice Learning in  a range of academic and practice settings - were invited to join the conversation, focusing on the following themes:

  1. Bridging the gap between academic and social work practice communities
  2. Implications for practice of the availability of placements across the statutory and independent sectors and what can be done to target support for practice teaching within both sectors
  3. How practice learning can continue to contribute to wider practice development across the social service workforce

This discussion touched on past, current and future developments:

  • the introduction and development of training for practice educators
  • the development of training consortia and learning networks
  • the SISWE Learning for Effective and Ethical Practice project (2005) linking practice and academia in a range of demonstration projects designed to radically enhance the quality and quantity of practice learning opportunities for the then, new degree
  • greater partnership between staff in HEIs and service delivery organisations responsible for practice learning
  • the enhancement of the local authority Practice Learning Co-ordinator role
  • the Knowledge Exchange Fellowship scheme
  • Better connections between student research and service organisations’ needs for inquiry to be undertaken


Following a short and efficient AGM, we broke into small groups to allow participants to network and consider progress made and identify areas for development in relation to the 3 questions above and 2 more:

  1. What are the ways in which the quality of learning can be assured in practice?
  2. How can we further develop the integration of service user and carers’ perspectives in practice learning?

We encouraged the groups to chose whichever questions they would like to focus on and capture thoughts and suggestions to inform ScOPT planning as we go into the New Year.  A summary of the feedback is available here Group Discussion Summary Sheet


The ScOPT Board of Trustees next meets on 23 January and will consider how to use the feedback to inform the action plan for 2018.


Thanks to all who contributed to the learning event – our host, Professor Viv Cree, our guests and our members who participated on the day.


Best wishes for 2018!

ScOPT Board of Trustees

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