Inter-country Social Work admissions and educational comparisons are difficult due to variance in policy and practices between Social Work educational providers, even within the same country. However, this paper aims to provide an examination of different levels of impact that COVID-19 ‘lockdown’ had on ‘admissions to social work’ processes and on education, using examples from universities in Australia, England, Finland, Northern Ireland, Norway, Ireland and Sweden. Already we know that across these examples, admission processes differ significantly. Variances are between selection and entry methodologies with some institutions using academic entry criteria and personal statements and interviews, while others use academic entry criteria and relevant experience or academic entry only. We also know that practicum duration is variable across providers, lasting between 75 and 200 days. Despite all differences, a distinct adjustment to lockdown required a shift to virtual teaching methods for each institution. This paper seeks to explore the range of approaches adopted to lockdown in relation to practice learning placements in each example. We consider the underpinning values and principles that guided responses to these change processes in the various institutions and longer-term implications emerging from the required rapid change processes are discussed.
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In Northern Ireland student placements ended mid-way through, following government guidance and a partnership decision by the universities and relevant external stakeholders. Final year students received their full award early and were expedited to the workforce and this was supported by the Degree Partnership Board including the Department of Health ‘DoH’ and the regulator, NI Social Care Council. The unforeseen ending of placements had inherent challenges for at multiple levels for employers, practice teachers, tutors and students but ultimately for service users, as proper endings were not possible in the timescale. Decision making was rapid and partnership working was evidenced as mainly positive, and reflection on this episode will be an ongoing process for all involved.
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