By: amy bishop
Although we had planned some regional celebration of learning events at the end of wave one and two of the PSDP, these were unable to happen due to the unexpected emergence of the pandemic. It is fair to say at the time, we didn’t have the insight and resources needed to plan successful virtual events. A year on, we can proudly say that we have been on a huge learning curve about what good teaching and learning looks like in virtual spaces and are delighted with participants’ feedback about our efforts.
The recent PSDP conference in March 2021 was a celebration of the programme towards the end of its third year. The conference format was designed based on the virtual pedagogy adopted for the delivery of the programme in wave three. This included a range of presentations and activities via Microsoft Teams, including time for participants to engage with keynote speakers in the main session and via the chat, break out room activities with peers and short periods of time for personal reflection.
The conference was attended by 150 people who have been PSDP participants, facilitators and main programme colleagues over the three years. The day centred around keynote presentations from Professor Claudia Bernard on anti-racist practice, Penny Sturt on supervising in virtual spaces and Professor Gillian Ruch reflecting on her observations as a programme facilitator and key member of the programme management team. We also invited Dr Sylvia Smith, Social Worker Matters podcaster and PSDP one-to-one facilitator, to record interviews with a range of participants across the three years of the programme and to showcase stories and the impact of the programme. You can watch all of these short film clips and more on a new dedicated area on the PSDP open access resources website.
Hearing directly from practice supervisors and middle leaders at the conference reinforced key messages we have heard time and time again since we began to deliver PSDP. Throughout the day we heard about practice supervisors’ commitment to providing supervision which attends to emotion, containment, learning, development, difference and power.
Evidence from programme evaluations tell us that participant confidence in providing emotionally intelligent supervision increases over a four to six-month period and this is supported by their manager’s evaluation. This also emerged as a theme in the conference where we recognised that our awareness of the need to attend to emotional containment in remote spaces has increased over the past year. We acknowledged that we need to work even harder as supervisors, to hold our supervisees and children and families in mind. It is then even more important to pay attention to the impact of bearing witness to issues such as loss and distress and how we ourselves find containment and emotional support in our role.
We also reflected on this past year and what we have been able to consider about becoming anti-racist supervisors. This was re-iterated in the conference, where we concluded that we need to continue to be active in our ally-ship and continue to reflect on our own bias whilst inviting supervisees to do this in every aspect of their practice. We also need to think deeply about what is needed to help Black, Asian and Minority ethnic social workers to progress into leadership positions within the sector and close the gap of inequality in this respect. These are areas that will become a continued focus as we move into the fourth year of the programme with teaching content revised to reflect these changes.
We have recently announced the opening of the nomination process for wave four online delivery of PSDP. Places will now be open to any practice supervisor (who supervises qualified social workers) regardless of length of time in post.
One change is that we are inviting local authorities and trusts to reflect on whether nominations for wave four cohorts are representative of their workforce demographic. You can access the latest published data (Feb 2021) on the ethnicity of children and family social workers.
We will also continue to offer our new ‘Supervising the Supervisor’ programme developed for middle leaders who line manage practice supervisors. This will now be extended to be a three-day programme (two days teaching with a one day follow-up).
Learning from the programme suggests that practice supervisors and middle leaders value PSDP because it provides opportunities to connect and learn with learning with peers, in a reflective space. The experience of attending PSDP also seems to prompt many practice supervisors and middle leaders to re-connect with their own need for protected reflective discussion within line management supervision. Their experiences suggest that there can be a tendency for supervision to become more task-focused and less reflective as workers progress into more senior roles in children’s social care. We hope that wave four delivery of PSDP will continue to focus attention on the importance of building a positive culture of reflective supervision in children’s social care.
Jo Williams is the Delivery Lead for the Practice Supervisor Development Programme (PSDP) and works for the Tavistock and Portman NHS Trust. Alison Domakin is the Practice and Engagement Lead for the PSDP and works for Research in Practice.
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