Social Worker Degree Apprenticeship

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Social Worker Degree Apprenticeship

Social workers support and protect some of society’s most deprived and vulnerable people. They require a high level of motivation, commitment and a qualifying degree. The Open University’s Social Worker Degree Apprenticeship (SWDA) is approved by Social Work England (SWE), and successful completion entitles graduates to apply for registration as a social worker.

The Open University's Social Worker Degree Apprenticeship combines theory and practice-based learning, and is delivered flexibly around the demands of your workplace. Apprentices will develop new skills and knowledge whilst carrying out real work as part of a team in a social care setting.

Through completion of this apprenticeship, learners will gain:

  • Practice experience and evidence of assessed competency in the workplace
  • New skills and knowledge preparing them to take on more demanding roles within social care delivery
  • A professionally qualifying degree in Social Work

For employers, the programme provides the opportunity to develop and retain current staff as well as attract new talent. Because apprentices study alongside work, they will put their learning into practice immediately, for the positive benefit of service users.

The programme will enable you to:

  • Develop your workforce according to an employer-defined standard
  • Increase staff retention by offering career progression
  • Maximise the apprenticeship levy and embed apprenticeships in workforce planning and service transformation.


Why choose The Open University’s Social Worker Degree Apprenticeship?

  • Delivered flexibly around the demands of your organisation, using our tutor-supported, media-rich online learning methods.
  • Learning is accessible 24/7 and can be delivered to various locations using our tried-and-trusted educational technology, providing a consistent programme for multiple staff, regardless of where they are based and when they study.
  • Our Social Worker Degree Apprenticeship is based on over 20 years’ successful experience working in partnership with employers to deliver a practice-based qualifying social work programme, training over 6,000 registered social workers.

In the following videos, Louise Wannell and Claire Partington, two Social Worker Degree apprentices at the City of York Council explain why they chose to do this apprenticeship and why the OU is such a good fit for them.

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To help you make an informed decision, we recommend checking out our additional resources.

Download our brochure or watch our information session video to gain a more in-depth understanding of this programme and its benefits.

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The programme is suitable for new and existing social care support staff who are responsible for delivering direct services and who have the potential to take on greater challenges and responsibilities as qualified social workers.

It supports the development of social work apprentices across a wide range of settings including services for adults, children and families, and mental health. The programme equips apprentices to work with professionals from other organisations, such as the police, healthcare organisations, schools and probation services.

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Alongside the Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA) apprenticeship requirements, employers must also commit to the following programme requirements for the Social Worker Degree Apprenticeship:

  • Organise a current enhanced DBS check, with checks against all registers including both children and vulnerable adults.
  • Support students by giving full-time release for the duration of the practice learning placements and release to attend practice learning workshops.
  • Provide appropriate practice placements with suitable supervision in accordance with the requirements of the profession.
  • Identify a member of staff to make the practice learning arrangements and liaise with the programme (the Agency Coordinator).
  • Appoint a practice verifier (to verify 10 days of practice learning).
  • Appoint practice educators (or a workplace supervisor) for each of the two practice placements.

For further information, visit the information for SWDA employers webpage and employer responsibilities.

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All SWDA applicants must:

  • Have GCSE grade 9–4/A*–C/Functional/Key Skills Level 2 in English and maths, or a certified equivalent
  • Demonstrate IT competence through self-declaration
  • Have an enhanced DBS with lists check (i.e. checks against all registers including both children and vulnerable adults) dated within one year prior to starting the programme
  • Complete an application pack consisting of:
    • Application form
    • Declaration of Suitability for Social Work form
    • Equal Opportunities form
  • Complete the initial assessment, including the Skills Scan, that measures an apprentice’s knowledge, skills and behaviours against the standard’s, to ensure that the programme is beneficial for the apprentice and the employer.
  • Take part in an interview and assessment process

For the latest information on vaccination requirements for frontline health and social care workers, please check the NHS England website.

Below is a summary of the eligibility criteria as set by the government for apprentices. For further information, see the Government funding rules.

To be eligible for government funding, at the start of the apprenticeship, apprentices must:

  • Be over 16 years old
  • Not be in full-time education
  • Not currently on another apprenticeship
  • Have the right to live and work in England
  • Spend at least 50% of their working hours in England

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The Social Worker Degree Apprenticeship consists of a 360-credit degree programme of essential knowledge and skills including:

  • Social work theory and legislation.
  • Applying learning to practice and developing critical and analytical skills.
    • The differing approaches to person-centred care. The development of health and social care in the UK and the political and contemporary context in which care takes place.
  • ​Theories, concepts and professional principles that underpin social work practice.
  • A range of research methods and their application to social care practice.

The subject matter is interdisciplinary, derived from psychology, sociology, social policy, law and social work studies.

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Apprentices will follow a structured programme of five compulsory modules and one core option module from a choice of four, at Stage 3.

Stage 1

Stage 2

Stage 3*


Introducing health and social care

Social work law 

Choose one*: 

Approaches to mental health

Leading, managing, caring

Investigating health and social care

Young lives, parenting and families

BA (Hons) in Social Work (England) awarded.

Eligible to register with Social Work England (SWE).

End-point assessment achieved.

Apprenticeship programme completed.

Foundations for social care and social work practice

Applied social work practice

Critical social work practice

   Theory modules
   Practice modules

*Please note the Stage 3 optional module will have to be selected during the application process.

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Depending on the intensity of study, the apprenticeship programme can be completed in three years. 

The programme has six modules. The first two provide an introduction to the organisation of social care in the UK and develop apprentices’ awareness of the different components of good social work practice. The third module covers legal issues related to social care and social work, including the regulation of social care decision-making. 

Apprentices then progress onto a practice-focused work-based learning module, which includes a defined period of assessed practice learning. The fifth module will be a choice from four core option modules. The final module will be another practice-focused work-based learning module.  

In these work-based and blended learning modules, apprentices will be required to reflect on their role and document their acquisition of skills and competencies in their portfolio.  

Once apprentices have completed the final module, Critical Social Work Practice, there will be a brief period known as the “Gateway and End-point Assessment” where all apprenticeship requirements will be checked, including ensuring all apprentices have completed and recorded all required off the job learning and reviews. If apprentices have completed all of this, and have successfully passed all modules, they will not have anything additional to do during this time. This will mean a likely end date of approximately December, after which apprentices will be able to register with Social Work England. 

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The Open University has the experience and support in place to help apprentices succeed and make a positive impact on practice.

In addition to designated account management support, the OU will deploy expert staff to support your organisation and your apprentices. They will work collaboratively with the relevant roles in your organisation:

Practice Tutor (PT)

The PT is a key role and provides individual support to apprentices to progress and complete all the requirements of the apprenticeship or professional programme they have enrolled in. The support is tailored to the context of each learner’s professional duties and their workplace environment. Regular engagement with each learner’s line manager or work-based supervisor is a critical component of this role. In addition, the PT coaches the apprentice to integrate their academic learning with their professional work, guide them in the development of their portfolio and prepares them for their end-point assessment.

There are further roles and teams that support both apprentices and employers, and that work very closely with the PTs.

Academic Tutors

The role of the Academic Tutor is to support success by using, interpreting and building on the teaching resources produced by the OU and provided to apprentices. They monitor progression, mark assignments, provide personalised feedback and work in partnership to support the apprentices’ academic, personal and professional development. In addition, Academic Tutors provide pastoral support to apprentices. They are sometimes also referred to as Associate Lecturers or Module Tutors.

Apprenticeship Enrolment and Support Team (AEST)

The AEST supports apprentices throughout their Apprenticeship journey. This team of friendly Senior Advisors can offer advice and support for a range of queries apprentices may have whilst studying their modules, whether that be for advice on an upcoming assignment or exam, navigation around the OU online learning platforms or when they are experiencing difficult circumstances that are having an impact on their studies. This support team is able to reach out to a wide range of relevant teams within the University to help apprentices get back on track again.

Apprenticeship Programme Delivery Managers (APDM)

This role supports employers to recruit and onboard applicants on to the chosen apprenticeship programme. APDMs provide information, advice and guidance and carry out an initial assessment to ensure the apprenticeship is the right one at the right level for the individual. APDMs provide quarterly management information reports to employers detailing learners progress and put interventions in place where an apprentice is in need of support. Employers will have a named APDM to be the primary contact for apprenticeship delivery throughout the programme.

Line Manager

This is a person in the workplace who supports the choice of apprenticeship programme for their employee or applicant and is involved in the onboarding process with their applicant. Line managers facilitate the apprentice to take off-the-job planned training time and they fully engage in quarterly progress review meetings with the Practice Tutor and apprentice. Line managers have regular one to one meetings with their apprentices to integrate the apprenticeship into performance and development. They are key to enabling a successful work-based project and completion of the apprentice’s end-point assessment.

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Using The Open University’s tried-and-trusted educational technology, our programmes are delivered flexibly around apprentices’ personal lives and the demands of your organisation.

The tutor-supported online learning is both varied and interactive, with multiple rich media formats that engage and enthuse apprentices on their journey. Learning can be accessed 24/7 on computers, tablets and mobile devices, so apprentices can study at home, work and on the move. Online tutorials, forums and discussion groups allow apprentices to learn from different industries and backgrounds.

An apprenticeship is a job with a formal programme of training which meets the requirements of the Apprenticeship Standard (in England), Framework (in Wales). The time that employers must allocate to this training can vary between programmes. The planned training hours will be detailed in the Training Plan. Note that in England and Wales, this time is called 'off-the-job training' in England and in Scotland, it is called 'protected time'. This is time for the apprentice to engage in the learning with the OU during their contracted working hours.

For full guidance visit:

The Open University’s flexible, blended learning approach makes it a lot easier for employers to effectively manage off-the-job training, while minimising the impact on productivity in the workplace.

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For a more detailed look at our Social Worker Degree Apprenticeship, download our brochure, visit the information for SWDA employers webpage or contact our business team advisors.

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Develop the relevant skills for your organisation, improve productivity and achieve higher staff morale.

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Earn while you learn and develop the skills you need to gain access to sectors you want to work in.

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We’re an Approved/Appointed Supplier on a large number of national frameworks and dynamic purchasing systems. See which frameworks are available to procure this programme through.

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Education & Skills Funding Agency Apprenticeships  

Programme Summary

Location: England


  • 3 - 3.5 years

Qualifications achieved at the end of the programme

  • BA (Hons) in Social Work (England)
  • Social Worker Degree Apprenticeship awarded by the Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education (IfATE)

Level and standard

Specific entry requirements

Recognition of prior learning (RPL)

End-point assessment (EPA)

  • Integrated

Additional information

Contact us

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