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Expansion of Firstline Programme

Project start date: February 2020

We (Frontline) were awarded up to £3.73m to scale and spread the Firstline programme to over 400 social work managers, across 3 years. Our intensive year-long programme seeks to transform good managers into excellent leaders through a modular approach.

Project Summary


Numerous government reviews of social work have found deficiencies in the quality of social work practice, and the privileging of management over leadership is widely recognised. Social work managers have a critical role to play in supporting and challenging social workers to be excellent practitioners, and to work with children and families in a way that brings about change.

Firstline focuses managers on their individual skill and power and through the programme, they explore and define the ways they can actively apply this leadership, to be even more effective. The leadership development programme consists of a series of residential modules; six two-hour individual sessions with a highly skilled leadership development adviser and four practice development sessions.

Across the programme Firstline leaders identify a development focus, through which their learning culminates. All activity (bar the residential modules) takes place within the Firstline leaders local authority. The programme enables good first line managers to become high-performing, influential leaders in the social work practice system.

We are deeply invested in understanding the impact the programme has on Firstline leaders, social workers, local authorities and most importantly children and families. We capture extensive data through the programme and beyond to better understand our impact, and we will work closely with our evaluation partner to consider other ways we might do so. To date we have found that Firstline Leaders have:

Firstline works alongside the senior management team of our local authority partners and meets with them across the course of the programme to ensure learning can be funnelled into wider workforce development planning.
Following the success of the prototype, and due to the continued need for leadership development in children’s social work, Firstline has received further funding (£3.7m) from the innovation programme to deliver the programme nationally and at scale. The Firstline programme is expanding into new regions each year and over 400 social work managers will complete the programme in the next three years.

To learn more, visit our website.



Project contact details

Mary Jackson

Leadership Development Director

Project evaluators

Kings College London in partnership with the Rees Centre

Project partners

Since 2014 Firstline has partnered with 32 local authorities across England

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