PSDP Overview

The Practice Supervisor Development Programme (PSDP) is a significant investment by the Department for Education (DfE) and aims to provide high-quality continuous professional development (CPD) to up to 1000 social workers taking up their first role in which they are responsible for supporting and developing the practice of others.

Key aims and values of the PSDP include empowering practitioners to build confidence, mobilising academic knowledge and practice expertise, and working in partnership with the sector. The programme will also engage with organisational culture, recognising the key role that employers and leaders play in enabling high-quality learning for Practice Supervisors.

Find out more (PDF) if you have been nominated for the programme and would like to know more about the registration process and course structure.


Research in Practice, together with a group of Partners, have formed a Consortium to develop and deliver a national Practice Supervisor Development Programme (PSDP) funded by the Department for Education. This page covers some of the frequently asked questions about the PSDP.

As at May 2020, two Waves of the programme have been delivered equating to 52 cohorts in total.

The programme has been extended to March 2021 and aims to deliver a further:

Programme Management and Commissioning

Who is in the partnership?

Research in Practice is leading a consortium which includes: The Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust, University of Sussex and Goldsmiths, University of London. The Consortium is supported by a network of Local Delivery Partners. These are:

Goldsmiths will act as the Local Delivery Partner for London, and University of Sussex will act as Local Delivery Partner for the South East region.


How will the regional delivery structure be managed?

Local Delivery Partners are allocated course deliveries in their region, dependent on the final design of the programme and taking into account capacity and geographical considerations, where necessary.   The Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust will be coordinating and scheduling course deliveries and the designated Learning and Partnership Lead at Goldsmiths University will also be on hand to assist Local Delivery Partners.

What if our local Higher Education Institution / Teaching Partnership is not one of the Local Delivery Partners?

We had to select one Local Delivery Partner per region, which means that some Higher Education Institutions and Teaching Partnerships have not been included as a Local Delivery Partner within our partnership. This is certainly no reflection on their strengths and skills; we just had to be pragmatic. We made selection decisions based on a number of factors, including how long a Teaching Partnership had been operating, how many local authorities were already accessing their CPD offer and so forth.

The PSDP does not replace the wealth of existing CPD provision available. With limited numbers of places on the PSDP, local authorities will need to select carefully which supervisors should attend the PSDP, and should certainly continue to engage with their local teaching partnership / higher education institution. Every effort will be made to ensure the PSDP builds upon and complements existing CPD. Organisations have been invited to submit any materials to the programme, and their work will be fully cited.

Planning the Programme

How has the programme been planned?

By scoping and surveying the sector to gain an understanding of current best practice and then using this understanding to shape a training and development programme. The programme is delivered with  /through our Local Delivery Partners for up to 1000 newly-appointed Practice Supervisors across England between November 2018 - March 2020. This has now been extended to March 2021.

Values and Principles

What are the key values, principles and related expectations for the wider PSDP partnership?

The programme aims to provide consistent and coherent delivery that is a positive experience for participants and facilitators with the best outcomes for all concerned. We achieve this by collectively adhering to the principles reiterated below:

Target audience

Is the PSDP just for Local Authority / Trust’s Children's Services?

Yes, the PSDP was commissioned by the Department for Education (DfE) and is focused on child and family social work within local authorities / trusts. We are, however, very keen to learn from and share learning with the adults' social work sector. Any colleagues wanting to explore this issue should contact

About the Programme

What are the links with the National Assessment and Accreditation System?

The materials developed for both the PSDP repository and the formal course clearly reflect – but are not limited to - the Knowledge and Skills Statement (KSS) for Practice Supervisors. The PSDP is developmental, and does not include any formal assessment. The PSDP should therefore be highly valuable and relevant for those going on to undertake the assessment and accreditation for Practice Supervisors, but the PSDP is not intended to ‘teach to the test'.

What does the programme look like and what will be covered?

The PSDP has an applied and experiential framework, which will provide a solid grounding in the values, skills and knowledge that the evidence suggests are important for Practice Supervisors.

Typically the course spans a three-month delivery period.

Wave 3 – some changes have been made to the delivery model which now comprises of:

Generic and Bespoke cohorts

Supervising the Supervisor cohorts

All cohorts:

This full programme aims to support practice supervisors to embed their learning as follows:

Wave 1 and 2 comprised of:

Which virtual learning platforms will you be using?

We are researching current available user friendly platforms that participants may be familiar with and will let you know our decision as soon as it is confirmed.

What support will I get if I have technical difficulties?

We will provide as much guidance as possible and will aim to have someone available to support you with access issues.  We recognise that virtual learning may be new to many colleagues and see this as an opportunity to learn and embrace different methodology.

I’m nervous about spending a whole day or two days online…

We are mindful of the impact of too much time in front of a screen and are working on building course delivery so these sessions are of a suitable length and frequency. Sessions will also be interactive and varied with appropriate breaks. You should expect to spend some time off line or working in pairs or small groups in-between ‘screen’ session on a given day. We will be taking regular feedback and adapting delivery and sessions as necessary.

Are we just talking about 1:1 line management supervisors being able to access the course?

No, not necessarily. Practice Supervisors are defined by Department for Education as those whose professional role is to support and develop practitioners who are working directly with children and families. These Practice Supervisors may not hold formal line management roles; they may be called ‘advanced practitioners', ‘consultant social workers', or something similar.

Wave 1 and 2 of the programme was aimed at ‘newly-appointed' Practice Supervisors – this means that participants should have taken on this role within the past 12 months. Following feedback on the wider benefits of the PSDP Wave 3 is aimed at Practice Supervisors with up to five years’ experience.   

Why is there no residential element in Wave 3?

It is in the interest of participants and overall public health and safety in light of the 2020 Coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic which has resulted in government directives restricting social contact.  These social distancing measures mean face to face teaching days and hotel stays are not safe or appropriate to contain and prevent the spread of infections.

Will I lose out without the opportunity for a residential stay?

The residential element in Waves 1 and 2 was important to provide time away from day to day business and other commitments to enable an immersive learning environment and build trusted relationships and networking opportunities between cohort members.  We would encourage Wave 3 participants and their managers to ensure they have dedicated time away from business and other distractions to fully engage in all elements of the programme and in particular the in person virtual learning sessions. Providing this dedicated time is available there should be no impact on learning outcomes and objectives.

The residential element also allowed for slightly later finish on Days one and three and earlier starts on Days two and fout. We are hopeful that by increasing the number of Days to six days and without the need to travel to venues the time can be used well to ensure a rich experience.

What if I can't make all days of the teaching element of the PSDP?

The expectation for participants signing up for the course is that they will be able to attend all planned days of the programme, and as such we ask that this time is protected in participants diaries by their managers and we will ask for confirmation of this from both participant and manager as part of the agreement of the Terms of Engagement.

We do however understand that in rare cases, unavoidable and exceptional circumstances may arise that make it difficult for a participant to attend a particular day or session. In these circumstances we will make every attempt to accommodate the participant whilst ensuring the delivery and experience of others is not impacted, but unfortunately we cannot guarantee that they will be able to fully complete the course. Where possible arrangements can be made to catch up on missed elements.

How will places be allocated for Wave 3?

We will be asking LAs / Trusts to nominate participants in June.

Generic cohorts - we will ask for two names per organisation and providing a Nomination Selection Guide with criteria to assist with nominations. As we have a finite number of places we will allocate places on a first come first served basis while aiming to ensure as many LAs as possible get a place. Any nominees who are not allocated will be placed on a waiting list for any places that become available at a later date. Additional places can become available at short notice.

Supervising the Supervisor cohorts – we will be asking for three names per organisation. Participants should be line managers of previous PSDP participants and as a minimum manage a Practice Supervisor. We will allocate on a first come first basis and aim for all three nominees from an organisation to get a place. This will allow for a local community of practice to ensure depth of learning transfer across the organisation.

All nominees will be sign-posted to online tools and resources via the open access PSDP Tools and Resources for Practice Supervisors website. There are currently over 100 resources on the site and further resources for Managers will be added during the year.

How many places will be available per local authority?

Generic cohorts - we expect there to be at least one place per Local Authority / Trust with approximately 180 places on these courses.

Bespoke cohorts – the number of places will be dependent on the number of Local Authorities/ Trusts who are selected. We expect to have more information during the summer.

Supervising the Supervisor – we expect to have 240 places on these courses and we expect to place Local Authorities / Trusts with three nominees as a priority as we believe this will allow learning transfer to be more firmly embedded in organisations.

How many participants will there be per course?

Courses will be delivered to cohorts between 18 and 21 participants.

How will local authorities get the 'right' people on the course?

The generic and bespoke cohorts of Wave 3 are aimed at Practice Supervisors with up to five years’ experience. The Supervising the Supervisor cohort is aimed at line mangers of previous PSDP participants and as a minimum Managers who manage a Practice Supervisor. Employers will be provided with tools to help select prospective candidates and will be encouraged to consider how the selected participants will ensure the wider organisation can benefit from their experience and learning. Additional support will be provided by the Consortium to those local authorities and ‘alternative delivery models' (e.g. independent trusts) facing specific improvement challenges for the bespoke cohorts to assist them in identifying participants and creating the necessary conditions for effective learning transfer

Why has the criteria changed to include more experienced Practice Supervisors?

We listened to feedback from previous participants and sector colleagues who advised that there were many elements of the course that would be equally useful to more experienced Practice Supervisors. This included some participants who had been in post a little over 12 months.

I am an experienced Practice Supervisor, why do you feel I need the same learning as someone with less experience?

The course content is based on the most recent research and practice which we feel all colleagues will benefit from. The course content is also being adapted to take into account which elements more experienced participants would benefit from so it is targeted to this audience.

So, is the Supervising the Supervisor course a PSDP for Managers?

While some participants felt the PSDP or many elements within the PSDP would be of value to their management teams, the aim of this course is not to deliver the full PSDP to participants’ line managers but to work on strategies to embed learning back in the workplace.

Why do you feel I need the Supervising the Supervisor course as a Manager of a Practice Supervisor?

Feedback from a number of areas indicates that learning transfer into the workplace is a challenge. This often means that the full benefits and impact of the course is not realised in daily practice. The aim of the Supervising the Supervisor course is to discuss and provide strategies and support to enable this learning transfer.

Why are we asked to register now when our course delivery isn't until much later in the year?

We need to ensure participants and their managers have as much time as possible to complete the pre-course learning needs evaluation, and to help participants and their employers to ensure dedicated time is blocked out in their calendars and for making any other arrangements to enable them to fully participate in the learning. The course is very popular and we would like to ensure that all Local Authorities / independent trusts have an opportunity to take up their places before we offer them to candidates on the waiting list. To do this effectively we need all registrations completed with a long lead in time in order to identify spare places and offer them to those on the waiting list.

Are there any pre-course requirements?

Yes, we are keen to retain a focus on learning needs and achievements throughout the programme. This is to ensure that participants are able to recognise the value, impact and benefit of the learning and transferring it into practice.

A pre-course requirement to confirm a place on the course is completion of a three-fold evaluation process. This comprises of a self-evaluation, a managers evaluation and a guided conversation with one or more supervisees. This provides an indication of the objectives you want to focus on and acts as a baseline for measuring progress. The participant and their manager are also required to sign a Terms of Engagement document as both an individual and organisational commitment to allow protected time for this important CPD .

Participants risk losing their place on the course if these pre-requisites are not completed prior to the course starting. The PSDP Team are available to support participants and their managers to complete the evaluations where necessary.

A pre-course reading list will also be provided to help you prepare and benefit fully from the topics covered in the programme.

Course Delivery

Who will facilitate the course?

Facilitators will be identified by the Local Delivery Partners. Each course will have two facilitators who will be experienced practitioners with experience of continuing professional development (CPD) delivery and / or will be experienced CPD facilitators from a local Higher Education Institution with good knowledge and understanding of practice. As part of their engagement with the course, these facilitators participate in a Community of Practice which will ensure the core values and principles are embedded across all Local Delivery Partners and that a consistent body of knowledge is applied across all delivery. Peer review activities between Local Delivery Partners was used to quality assure the consistency of course design and delivery during Waves 1 and 2.

What experience do Facilitators have in virtual delivery?

We will be working with all facilitators to ensure they are confident and skilled in virtual delivery.  Most will have experience via their work with HEIs and organisations, many whom have moved to virtual delivery as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic social isolation requiring changes to working practices. Facilitators will be supported by Consortium Partners in training, technical support and delivery as required.

Outside the criteria

What about participants not being put forward by their Local Authority? Or those that work outside of local authorities?

The open access PSDP Tools and Resources for Practice Supervisors website has been created so that all social work professionals can engage with high-quality materials to support their own professional development. There are over 100 tools and resources and more being added through the year.


How are you making sure the sector is involved in your work?

Sector engagement continues to be via the Practice Reference Group with representation from LAs / Trusts in each region and via feedback from participants. 

For bespoke courses input is requested from participating LAs / Trusts.

Wave 1 delivery started in Autumn 2018 following a comprehensive scoping and design phase. This phase included:

- Surveying the sector to understand learning needs, barriers and enablers to accessing CPD, and the strengths of existing CPD.

- Four focus groups for Practice Supervisors.

- Establishing a Practice Reference Group, comprised of two representatives per region – one Principal Social Worker and one experienced supervisor.

- Issuing a survey to CPD providers and a ‘call for practice'.

- Undertaking a research literature review.

- Undertaking a desk-based review of sector and policy documentation – such as Ofsted reports, social work health checks, self-assessment activities etc – as well as a number of interviews with colleagues working in local authority Children's Services to identify messages relating to practice supervision.

What about service users?

We have worked with a number of organisations to ensure that we heard from children, young people, parents and carers about what makes a good Practice Supervisor. This was done through focus groups, surveys and other consultation activity. We are grateful to the following organisations for their help with this work: Barnardo's; Become; Catch 22 / National Leaving Care Benchmarking Forum; Family Rights Group; Grandparents Plus and TACT.


Will participation in the PSDP be accredited?

There won't be any formal academic accreditation, as this was not part of the contract with the Department for Education. However, all candidates who successfully complete the programme will receive a certificate in recognition of their participation. An inclusive and flexible approach to recognition will be offered with two tiers of award as agreed by DfE.

Level One - PSDP Certificate of Participation will be awarded to participants who have:

Level Two - PSDP Certificate of Completion is optional and will be awarded to participants who hold a Certificate of Participation and have:

(If you haven't managed to attend all three SGPS or do your LNE2 you can still complete an assignment)

Find out more about the PSDP Reflective Assignment Briefing Document

Submit your PSDP Reflective Learning Log

Data Protection

Who will have access to data about participants?

The events team at Research in Practice, together with Local Delivery Partners, will have access to the basic data they need to book people onto the course(s). Only The Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust will have access to sensitive / personal data (e.g. scores from individual skills analysis exercises, etc). Nobody else – including other Consortium members and the Department for Education – will be able to access individual participant data. Aggregated data will be available so that course take up can be monitored and promoted.

We recommend that participants and their line managers discuss the Learning Needs Evaluation responses. Where requested Manager LNE’s will be shared with participants.


Is there a cost associated with this programme?

The PSDP programme is funded by DfE, so there is no direct cost to LAs or participants apart from their travel costs to any face-to-face elements of the course (which are   delivered in regions to reduce the travel costs). PSDP is funded by public money – please help us to ensure maximum value is achieved from this investment by keeping us informed if you/ one of your nominated participants are no longer able to take up the place on the programme so we can reallocate it to someone else.

Learning Transfer

How can organisations support participants’ learning on PSDP?

We have developed a report which explores how organisations can support participants’ learning on PSDP based on our delivery of the programme during Wave 1 (September 18 to July 19). This focuses on the role which organisations play in supporting participants to make the most of the learning opportunities available during PSDP and continue to develop their skills and knowledge after the programme has ended. You can find the full report here. A short summary report is also available here, see more.

Additionally the Supervising the Supervisor course has the specific focus on enabling and embedding learning transfer back into the workplace.


Tell us about it

Compliments, Concerns and Complaints Procedure

We hope there will continue to be more Compliments than Concerns or Complaints around the PSDP and its delivery. However we acknowledge that there is room for continuous improvement so we want participants, their employers, facilitators and all partners to express any complaints and concerns and of course compliments where appropriate. Find out more.

Contact us

If you have a question that hasn't been answered, please contact

For any further information or clarification on any aspect of the Programme, please contact us.