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How to prepare for your first social work placement

Guest posts

Faculty: Health, Medicine and Social Care
Course: BA (Hons) Social Work
Category: Social sciences and social care

22 April 2021

The prospect of going out on placement is incredibly exciting but can also be very nerve wracking. So, here’s a little overview of the placement application form, what you need to do to prepare for placement, and some top tips for during this time.

Making your Social Work placement application

During your 1st year, the placements team will send you the Placement Application Form, or PAF. This is the form that will be sent to the agencies on your behalf.

The different sections in the application form are:

  • student personal details
  • student needs
  • employment history
  • student placement preferences
  • current strengths and development needs in relation to the PCF domains and SWE Professional Standards.

Placement preferences

Placement preferences are where you can state your preferred area of practice for the placement. The options are Adult, Children and Family, Mental Health, and Other (particular service group aspiration). Both of your placements can be in the same area but need to be contrasting, for example one placement in adult mental health, and the other in adults with learning disabilities.

Previous experience and development needs

The final section of the PAF takes the longest. It’s your opportunity to describe how your past experiences (whether that be employment or volunteering) and the knowledge you have gained at university (such as during Assessed Readiness for Direct Practice (ARDP)) evidence your strengths in each of the Professional Capabilities Framework (PCF) domains and Social Work England professional standards. During this section it’s a good idea to think about the skills required by social workers, such as communication, critical thinking and empathy.

You are also required to think about your development needs. For example, before I started at university, I had little experience of critical reflection and this was a skill I developed during ARDP, but I still needed to increase my knowledge of and get to grips with using different reflective models. I used this as a development need under PCF domain 6 ‘Critical Reflection and Analysis’.

Preparing for a social work placement

When you have been matched to a placement you will be sent an email by the ARU Placements team, with the profile of the organisation and the details of your practice educator and/or on-site supervisor.

In order to prepare for your placement make sure you do some research into the organisation. Placements can be in the private/voluntary sector or the local authority, and each organisation will focus on different service users.

In the email you will also be asked to contact the organisation to arrange a pre-placement interview. Your pre-placement interview will be an opportunity for you to meet your practice educator and/or on-site supervisor. They will give you an overview of their roles, talk about what the placement involves, and ask you to tell them a little bit about yourself and what you would like to gain from your placement. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, this shows interest and helps your peace of mind too!

Here are some top tips for when you start placement:

  • take all of the opportunities available to you
  • keep on top of your portfolio
  • don’t be afraid to ask questions
  • if it’s all getting too much or you have any concerns, talk to your on-site supervisor, practice educator or placement tutor
  • most of all, enjoy your placement!

By Megan Ling, BA (Hons) Social Work student

Placements are an important part of our Social Work degree course, with students spending around 170 days in practice, learning from registered social workers in a variety of settings. Find out more at one of our Open Days.


The views expressed here are those of the individual and do not necessarily represent the views of Anglia Ruskin University. If you've got any concerns please contact us.