Research Report

Leadership in Social Work Qualifying Education



Westwood J, Pemble C & Patterson F (2016) Leadership in Social Work Qualifying Education. Scottish Social Services Council. University of Stirling.

The role of Social Work in Scotland is multifaceted and complex. As a wider discipline and an individual occupation it requires dedication to a set of particular values, backed by the skills and willingness to bring those values to bear. Social workers must practise in an interdisciplinary context, working relationally with both professionals and service users to share and achieve common goals. But are social workers leaders? This study originated from the substantial review of social work education commissioned by the Scottish Social Services Council (SSSC) in 2015, and focuses specifically on how leadership is communicated and taught in social work qualifying education. The study began with a literature review and followed with interviews with expert informants from Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) across Scotland who were asked to discuss the nature, direction and facilitation of leadership in social work and in social work qualifying education. The interviews were thematically analysed to highlight areas of agreement and dissonance. Participants reflected that good leadership practices were often synonymous with good social work practices, with the activities of a leader often being closely aligned with the role and responsibilities of a social worker in practice. Despite this, these participants reported that ‘leadership’ was rarely explicitly discussed on issue for qualifying social work education. The meaning of ‘leadership’ in Scottish social work is discussed, and the importance of leadership guided by values is emphasised. The study concludes by identifying potential areas of progress for social work curricula, while highlighting the importance of change and facilitation at an organisational level.

Publication date online2016
PublisherUniversity of Stirling
Publisher URL….viewdoc&id=3200

People (1)


Dr Cate Pemble

Dr Cate Pemble

Research Fellow (Qualitative), Dementia and Ageing