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  5. Social Worker Degree Apprenticeship - Information for employers

Social Worker Degree Apprenticeship - Information for employers


Our Social Worker Degree Apprenticeship (SWDA) supports employers to develop their support workers towards registration as a social worker with Social Work England (SWE).

This webpage sets out some key information for our employer partners supporting apprentices on this programme. This information is correct at the time of publishing and this webpage will be reviewed regularly.

Please contact your local Staff Tutor or your Apprenticeship Programme Delivery Manager with any queries.


The SWDA is delivered in partnership between the OU and your organisation. 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.

The programme has start dates in October and February each year. Comprising six 60-credit modules, the apprenticeship will take 3-4 years to complete depending on the start date.

The programme supports the development of social work apprentices across a wide range of settings, including services for adults, children and families, and mental health.

The curriculum is underpinned by the following standards and frameworks:

Once qualified, all social workers need to demonstrate that they can practice according to the Social Work England Professional Standards and, in local authority contexts, the Knowledge and Skills Statements (KSS) for children and families and/or adults.

The theory elements of the programme are delivered by the OU using our innovative tutor-supported distance learning delivery model. Tutor supported online learning is accessible 24/7 and provides consistently high-quality training for staff through online learning, tutorials, written assignments and wider reading, regardless of location.

Practice learning modules provide apprentices opportunities to apply and evidence their academic knowledge to social work duties. Further information is contained within the practice learning section.


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.

Registration 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.

The Social Worker Degree Apprenticeship has start dates in October and February each year.


Social Worker Degree Apprenticeship - October start timeline


Social Worker Degree Apprenticeship - February start timelime

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.    


The apprenticeship is available for those who work in suitable roles for 30 hours or more per week.

All SWDA applicants must:

  • Have GCSE grade 9–4/A*–C/Functional/Key Skills Level 2 in English and mathematics, or a certified equivalent.
  • Demonstrate IT competence through self-declaration.
  • Demonstrate the potential to study at undergraduate level.
  • Achieve an International English Language Testing Systems (IELTS) score of 7 if English is not their first language.
  • 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 selection process.

All entry checks will occur upon application to the SWDA, prior to commencing study. Applicants must have successfully completed the required qualifications prior to applying to the programme and be able to evidence this with certification. The OU cannot accept applications if qualifications are still in progress or if results are pending.

Details on obtaining replacement educational certificates is available at the Gov replacement exam certificate website. Details of the level 2 qualifications accepted by the ESFA can be found on the ‘Level_3_Apprenticeships’ tab of the Gov website English and maths requirements in apprenticeship standards at level 2 and above document.

If your staff do not currently meet the entry requirements, our free OpenLearn courses can help prepare your employees to achieve Functional Skills in maths and English. Assessment will need to be organised separately by your organisation with a local provider.


Recruitment and selection are conducted jointly with the employer together with The Open University and will include a formal application with a written statement, written test and interview with service user involvement.

The SWDA is an employer-led combined academic and work-based qualification. Employers should carry out an internal sift or expression of interest process to select candidates to put forward. Candidates attend an interview with an OU academic and service user or carer, as well as completing a group discussion exercise and written test. Candidates are assessed against the Professional Capabilities Framework.

The OU admissions team will provide full guidance notes to support the process from start to finish.

Completing the Skills Scan 

The Skills Scan is part of the initial assessment carried out by the OU. This systematic review of the apprentice’s knowledge, skills and behaviours must be completed jointly by the apprentice and their line manager. The Skills Scan provides a picture of the apprentice’s prior learning to establish a baseline against the apprenticeship standard and how much new learning is needed. 

Employer responsibilities breaks down your role and responsibility at each stage of the apprenticeship.

Training Plan part two 

At the beginning of the apprenticeship The Open University will help apprentices produce and maintain a Training Plan part two (formerly known as the Individual Learning Plan), tailored to their specific needs and career goals. The Training Plan part two is necessary for apprentices to collate and track information, including details of all their learning and relevant workplace training, and helps them plan their workload to complete tasks in line with their development goals. 


There is a shared responsibility for the support of Social Worker Degree Apprentices between the OU and your organisation. There are a number of key staff who will be involved in your apprenticeship. Here is an overview of their roles and what they do.

Roles and responsibilities at the OU

  • Staff Tutor – The Staff Tutor manages the OU Practice Tutors and will be the main point of contact for the Agency.
  • Practice Tutors – Liaises with agency coordinators, practice educators, workplace supervisors and apprentices to agree a work plan and to monitor progress.
  • Academic Tutor – Facilitates learning within the theory modules at each stage of the qualification through personalised tuition, delivery of online tutorials, marking of assignments and detailed feedback.
  • Apprenticeship Programme Delivery Manager (APDM) – The APDM ensures compliance with ESFA requirements and will provide regular management information on all the apprenticeship programmes delivered by the OU.

In addition, The Open University provides the following support for apprentices:

  • Access to the Student Support team, with a dedicated apprenticeships advice line
  • Disability and accessibility support
  • Access to an online library, containing a world-class collection of high-quality academic and professional resources.

Roles and responsibilities at the Agency

  • Agency Coordinator – The main point of contact for the OU and is responsible for arranging placements.
  • Line Manager – Will manage the apprentice in the workplace when not on placement.
  • Practice Educator – Responsible for the teaching and assessment associated with practice learning on the programme.
  • Workplace supervisor – If the practice assessor/educator does not work in the practice setting.
  • Mentor – Provides informal support and guidance to the apprentice.


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.

This off-the-job training time is in addition to the practice placements, 

For full guidance, visit:  


If an applicant has previously studied elsewhere and their studies were completed at the same academic level as The Open University modules, we may be able to award credit transfer towards the programme. For previous study, completed up to 5 years ago, the maximum amount of credit transfer into the SWDA is 120 credits.

Find out more on our credit transfer website.

Apprentices must undertake two substantive periods of assessed work-based learning, arranged by the employer and including assessment by a practitioner in the role of practice educator.

There must be differentiation between the setting and/or client group experienced in the two placements, one of which is 70 days long and the other 100 days. Your Staff Tutor can provide advice about ways in which you can achieve a contrast in placements.

All practice learning will be assessed in accordance with the Professional Capabilities Framework (PCF).

Readiness to Practice

Foundations for social care and social work Practice (KXY123)

It is a requirement that learners on all courses leading to a degree in social work in England demonstrate that they are prepared for their practice learning.

In year 1, KXY123 apprentices must complete a structured programme of 20 practice skills days, preparing them for their first assessed practice learning opportunity in year 2. This module includes a minimum 10-day period of supervised practice learning in a social care setting and attendance at 15 online workshops. Assessment is via tutor-marked assignments; an end-of-module assessment and satisfactory completion of the 10-day practice learning period. 

Practice Placements

Applied social work practice (KXY216)

The first of two practice-based modules includes 70-days of assessed practice learning under the supervision of a Practice Educator. Timing of this placement would take place between February to July. Apprentices must also attend seven obligatory workshops, of which five are face-to-face.

Assessment for this module is via three tutor-marked assignments, an end of module project and satisfactory completion of the 70-day practice placement.

Critical social work practice (KXY315)

The second practice-based module includes 100-days of assessed practice learning under the supervision of a Practice Educator. Timing of this placement would take place between February to August. Apprentices must also attend a further seven workshops, of which five are face-to-face.

Assessment is via five tutor-marked assignments, an end of module project and satisfactory completion of the 100-day practice placement.

Practice Portfolio

The Practice Portfolio records evidence of application of knowledge and demonstration of the skills, values and behaviours required to meet the apprenticeship standard. Apprentices and their workplace practice educators are supported in practice by an OU Practice Tutor to ensure the apprentices achieve the full range of practice learning requirements.

Practice learning supervision

The Practice Educator will be responsible for the teaching and assessment tasks associated with practice learning on the programme. Agencies are responsible for appointing appropriately qualified practice educators. Guidance about who can become a practice educator is detailed in the BASW England Practice Educator Professional Standards for social work.

In some circumstances there may not be a suitable Practice Educator working in the practice setting. In these instances, an Off-site Practice Educator can be brought in to undertake the formal requirements of supervision, teaching and assessment. In this instance, a workplace supervisor is designated to undertake day-to-day support and supervision of the apprentice.

The Workplace Supervisor will be responsible for day-to-day supervision of the apprentice in circumstances where the practice assessor/educator is not working in the practice setting of the apprentice. This may be the apprentice’s line manager, or someone else with whom they work in the practice setting.

For the module Critical social work practice (KXY315), the workplace supervisor should be a registered social worker in a post requiring Social Work England (SWE) registration.


Theory assessment

Your apprentices’ theory work will be assessed by the OU through a combination of Tutor-Marked Assignments (TMAs), and End-of-Module Assessments (EMAs).

Practice-based assessment


The OU uses an e-portfolio system that acts as both a repository for apprenticeship specific work, and as a recording mechanism.

Skills Days

Practice skills workshops count towards the requirement for 30 practice skills days and – like placement days – are compulsory; they must be satisfactorily completed, in addition to placement days, before apprentices can pass the module. Please see the Practice Learning section for more information.

Progress reviews

The Practice Tutor will conduct tripartite progress review meetings at least every quarter with the apprentice and their line manager or apprentice workplace supervisor. The record of the progress review must be signed by all parties. 

Progress updates

Each quarter, the APDM will provide a summary report outlining apprentice performance.

If required, meetings can be arranged with the APDM and the Staff Tutor to discuss the report and the progress of the apprentices and the programme in general.

End-point assessment (EPA)

The end-point assessment (EPA) determines whether apprentices have successfully demonstrated the knowledge, skills and behaviours set out in the SWDA Standard's Assessment Plan on the Institute for Apprenticeships website.


Employers will need to register with the Apprenticeship Service to get funding to pay for apprenticeship training and assessment costs. Create an account to manage apprenticeships on the Gov website.

Using your apprenticeship levy

Organisations operating in the UK with an annual pay bill of more than £3 million are required to invest in apprenticeships through the apprenticeship levy. The levy is charged at a rate of 0.5% of your organisation’s annual pay bill. If your organisation pays the levy, you may utilise your levy payments to cover the cost of the Social Work Degree Apprenticeship.

Non-levy payers

For non-levy paying employers, the Government will fund 95% of the cost of training an apprentice, with a 5% contribution from the employer. Funding can be reserved through the Apprenticeship Service for non-levy organisations.

Levy Transfer

Alternatively, levy paying organisations may transfer their levy funds to a non-levy paying organisation in a way that benefits them both. Read more in our levy transfer blog post.


There are currently government incentives to encourage employers to engage with apprenticeship. Further information can be found regarding current funding incentives on the gov website.

Other costs to consider

Further costs that cannot be claimed through the apprenticeship levy and should be taken into consideration include:

  • The apprentice’s salary (the Social Work apprentice must be employed for a minimum of 30 hours a week for the duration of the apprenticeship).
  • Backfill for the off-the-job training time.
  • Backfill for apprentices while they are completing Social Work placements.
  • Travel expenses associated with attending face to face tutorials.
  • The cost associated with appointing a qualified Practice Educator to assess the apprentices during placements.

Can my employees self-fund on the programme?

The Social Work Degree Apprenticeship cannot be self-funded. If you are interested in Social Work programmes which have the option for students to self-fund, you may wish to consider our non-apprenticeship routes:

How can I procure the SWDA for my organisation?

The OU is on many apprenticeship procurement frameworks, or you can contract directly. Please speak to your Relationship Account Manager to discuss options.


Last update: 20 June 2022

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

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