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02 Jul 2020

Social service workforce

Learning from the NQSW pilots and next steps

We’ve completed phase one of the project to develop recommendations for the design, implementation and delivery of a sustainable and accessible national approach to newly qualified social workers (NQSWs) first year in practice on behalf of the Scottish Government.


In phase one we worked with Aberdeenshire Council, Angus Council and Learning Network West to test approaches to a supported and assessed year for NQSWs.

Each pilot site was supported to develop models of support and assessment that met local needs. The models were different however, the following elements were common to all NQSWs taking part.




  • protected learning time
  • a restricted caseload
  • regular, reflective supervision
  • access to induction, based on the already developed local model
  • access to a range of learning opportunities.


  • mid and end point assessment of NQSWs development and progress against a set of six draft benchmark standards written for this pilot
  • assessments to be carried out by a qualified and registered social worker.

Craigforth did an independent evaluation of the pilots to establish the impact and effectiveness of the different approaches. We considered the evaluation findings and other sources of information to produce a learning and next steps report.  

Some of the things we have learned

  • Core elements of support should be available as a minimum to all NQSWs.
  • Reflective approaches to supervision that provide insight into the NQSW’s practice and overall wellbeing are beneficial.
  • The draft NQSW benchmark standards are a relevant and user-friendly framework to support NQSW development and to mark progression and achievement.
  • Opportunities to provide and receive developmental feedback and agree an individual development plan at the beginning, mid and end point are beneficial.
  • Methods of evidencing and verifying progress require further work and need to focus on evidence that is integrated in practice and be integrated with appraisal systems.
  • Individual learning plans are a useful tool to support transition from university to the workplace.
  • Supervisors and mentors may require to be upskilled and/or supported to provide structured, reflective supervision and developmental feedback.
  • The model needs to be sustainable and make use of existing processes and arrangements where possible.

Web-based learning resource

The creation of a web-based learning resource is seen as a critical component in the development of a consistent, Scotland-wide approach to a NQSW supported year with particular benefit to smaller employers of NQSWs and those in more remote and rural locations.

Next steps

Over the next year we will:

  • continue to collaborate on finalising a Scotland-wide approach to a NQSW supported year
  • complete the development of a web-based learning resource for NQSWs and those who support them
  • collaborate with universities and employers on transitions
  • determine costs associated with implementation and delivery
  • provide evidence to support sustainability of a national approach
  • invite the sector to take part in a small scale, soft implementation of the approach from April 2021 and work with them to prepare and throughout delivery.

You can read our full report Learning from the NQSW pilots and next steps in developing a supported year here.

Contact information

Sandra Wilson
Communications Officer
Scottish Social Services Council