Positive findings in independent evaluation of Frontline

24th March 2016

Study of Frontline finds evidence of ‘impressive’ social work practice amongst charity’s first recruits. Read the ‘Independent evaluation of the Frontline pilot’ research report in full here.

An independent evaluation published today by Cardiff University compares the practice skills of Frontline participants with those qualifying into social work through other routes. It found that Frontline participants were rated higher than students on mainstream programmes on every one of the ten assessment criteria.

The overall score of practice skill was rated by assessors on a scale of 1-5, with Frontline participants scoring 3.77, top universities[1] 3.25, and other universities 3.09. This difference is statistically significant and is described by the evaluators as “impressive”. In addition, the report recognised Frontline participants’ ability to develop strong collaborative relationships and their cultural competence.

The evaluation also found that Frontline’s recruitment campaign has been effective in bringing people into social work. Over half of Frontline participants and 13% of those on other training routes had been influenced to join the social work profession following the campaign.

Alongside the evaluation, the Department for Education have published a cost comparison study for different social work qualifying routes. It shows that the net cost of social workers qualifying through Frontline is only 10.4%[2] higher than those qualifying through traditional undergraduate routes. In light of the higher quality of practice skill exhibited by Frontline participants, this additional cost represents good value for money.

Frontline is now looking for new partner local authorities as the charity grows and prepares to recruit 300 graduates and career changers in September 2016.

Josh MacAlister, Frontline’s Chief Executive:

“The findings of this evaluation are a reflection of the hard work and dedication of Frontline participants, our local authority partners and the university team delivering the programme. High quality social work practice can be transformational for those children most in need of help. The study’s findings are an early endorsement of the innovative approach we have taken. We are pleased to demonstrate value for money in the work we do to recruit and develop new social workers.

“The evaluation also recommends improvements that should be made and we welcome these suggestions. We will continue to change the programme as we learn from some of the best practice and research in the profession. This evaluation shows that we’ve made a good start in recruiting and developing new social workers.”

[1] Top universities – those described in the study as high tariff, which refers to five universities who have a 400+ UCAS point entry requirement.
[2] Research conducted by Curtis et al (2012) recognised there is a benefit to service providers from students undertaking placements (P.34 & 43) Comparing the costs of social work qualification routes)

Other findings from the report

  • The net cost of Frontline is only 10.4% higher than undergraduate routes


Social work qualifying route Net cost
Frontline £38,117
Undergraduate £34,523
Step Up £34,394
Postgraduate £28,690

Net cost takes account of the benefits accrued from students on placement and other training and development for social workers.

  • Frontline is bringing a significantly higher proportion of men into a predominantly female profession: 22- 24% of Frontline participants in the first two cohorts were male, compared to 14-15% of social work students in England as a whole.
  • Local authority staff perceptions of the quality of Frontline participants was positive, with key strengths including their ability to engage well with service users and the quality of their written assessments.
  • The number of BME participants on the Frontline programme reflects the makeup of the general population.