School Development Support Agency

Supporting the development of the school-led improvement system

Social Work Leadership Development

Social Work Leadership Development

The programmes have all been developed in partnership with the employers to co-design and deliver a work-based programme that is highly contextualised. Most recent programmes have been arranged to support the policy direction indicated by the work of Professor Munro to move from ‘compliance to learning’ and to emphasise critical reflection.

Our leadership programmes have been for cohorts of 30 – 60 in size, generally coming from a number of local authority employers. The programme design explicitly capitalises upon this fact by providing opportunities for knowledge and practice exchange between participants.

While all programmes are tailored to meet current circumstances, the following characteristics have tended to feature:

  • The programme extends over a period of 4-6 months with about four face-to-face events.
  • Whole-cohort sessions are mixed with well-supported small group sessions.
  • Participants are clustered into groups around themes and issues of common interest. Wherever possible the expertise of local university tutors is used to support group work.
  • Keynote speakers provide inspirational ‘external’ messages as well as featuring the emerging and interesting practice within local authorities.
  • Sessions are highly interactive, including practical workshops to develop the practical application of critical thinking and analysis skills in relation to front-line practice, supervision and assessment. 


Recent examples of this activity in the East Midlands region can be seen at


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SDSA's Role

The SDSA has a number of years’ experience providing leadership development programmes for social work managers, mostly working within children’s services but increasingly including adult social workers or leaders of multi-agency teams that deliver social-work functions. 

Project Impact

As of autumn 2014 there have been four different cohorts participating in SDSA-arranged social work leadership programmes. These programmes have supported the development of almost 200 social work leaders from 15 different local authorities. The feedback from participants and their employers indicates a 90% impact evaluation score of the programme upon their re-thinking of practice and the development of their leadership.

Project Lead

Peter Chilvers

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