Independent Evaluation finds Firstline has significant impact on social work leadership

24th January 2017

An independent evaluation of Firstline, a leadership development programme for social work managers, has been published by the Centre for Children and Family Research (CCFR) at Loughborough University. It reports that those on the programme, known as Firstline Leaders, have given “overwhelmingly positive” feedback, with the majority considering it as “the best training and professional development that they had received as managers and leaders.”

Those that took part in the prototype demonstrated the ability to influence their teams and others within their organisations. A third had secured, or were considering applying for new leadership positions. In particular Firstline Leaders’ teams reported improvements in their ability to learn and develop others, hold people to account and exercise resilience and self-reflexivity. Future evaluation will provide further opportunity to understand the impact that the programme has on children and families.

With support from the Department for Education’s Innovation programme, Frontline is expanding the Firstline programme nationally. This will see over 400 Firstline Leaders take part in the programme by 2019. By 2020 those who have completed the programme will join a network of over 1,000 Frontline Fellows, working to improve social work practice and leadership. Demand from local authorities has never been higher and we welcome approaches from interested authorities.

Edward Timpson, Minister for Vulnerable Children and Families:
“Child and family social workers carry out a vital role, and we are committed to investing in their development. Social workers deserve, and want, strong and effective leadership that helps nurture excellent practice, and Firstline provides evidence of this.”

“We are continuing to invest in the assessed and supported year of employment for newly qualified social workers, have launched a programme for those talented social workers aspiring to become the next generation of practice leaders and are supporting those making the important transition from frontline practice into practice supervision.”

Mary Jackson, Leadership Development Director, Frontline:
“It is excellent that the initial evaluation of Firstline found early evidence of the positive impact that a challenging leadership programme for social work managers, can have on social work practitioners. The fact that this is apparent, even in the embryonic stages of the programme, is hugely positive and provides a great foundation on which to improve social work leadership.”

Jacky Tiotto, Director of Children’s Services, London Borough of Bexley: 
“The Firstline programme was a fabulous opportunity for Bexley managers. Those who took part found it hugely beneficial to meet with other social work managers in similar roles, and they were able to relate the management challenges to work based scenarios which were familiar to each of them. The programme provided time to think and reflect, and the one-to-one coaching from a systemic practitioner helped immensely. Exploring different leadership styles in relation to context and responsibility was unusual and really valuable to their work.”

Read the independent evaluation here.