Qualifying Courses internal

Open University Post Graduate Diploma in Social Work

The Academy of Social Work in Plymouth has an established track record of recruting and training its own Social Workers. We are proud of our long history working with the Open University to train social workers ‘on the job’. The Open University provides a contemporary and innovative distance learning approach to Social Work education and this is supported by the Acaemies provision of high quality placements and a dedicated team of placement supervisors and practice educators. A number of our current social workers and managers undertook their social work education as employees of Plymouth City Council, gaining excellent training alongside hands on practical experience.

“This opportunity fitted in really well with working in children’s social care – I felt I gained excellent knowledge and skills to become a social worker. I am now an advanced practitioner and feel that the standard of the training was really high, focused on practice, what I was doing day to day, I could apply it straight away.”  
Advanced Practitioner OU route SE 2018

We advertise for out traineeship annually, typically in the early summer (May / June), with the commencement of training in the following January. Prospective applicants will need to:

  • meet the entrance requirements for the qualifying programme - we will post details of this when we advertise.
  • meet the interview requirements to hold a position within Plymouth City Council.

The programme is work-based, with successful candidates commencing a fixed term contract as a Trainee Social Worker (TSW). Qulaification as a social worker takes around 17 months to achieve, as this is a fast track route into the profession.  If successfully recruited, you would need to resign from your current position if you are in employment in order to take up the fixed term contract with Plymouth City Council as a TSW.

Successful appointees will be paid a salary, as well as having their University fees paid. We think you will agree this represents an excellent offer.  In return, we are looking for resilient, dedicated practitioners who are committed to the principles of public service, the values of the council, the value base for the social work profession and to safeguarding children in the City of Plymouth.

The Academy has an excellent continuing career development pathway and appointed TSW's are expected to make a commitment of around 4 years. This timescale is broken down as follows: 

  • The Trainee Social Worker will qualify as a social worker, usually within a period of around 17 months, from the January start date.
  • The local authority will contractually require the TSW to commit to Children’s Services as a qualified social worker for a minimum of two years post qualifying. Subject to the candidate being appointable and the council wishing to appoint the candidate once qualified.
  • It will be necessary to sign a legally binding agreement agreeing to repay fees in the event of certain conditions being unmet.
  • If recruited post qualification, the local authority will continue to support the development of the worker through a place on the Assessed and Supported Year in Employment and subsequent development opportunities. 

All candidates must meet the minimum entry requirements before applying for entry onto the postgraduate social work programme.

Applicants must hold a first degree [BA (Hons)/BSc (Hons)], which must be:


A minimum of a 2:1 classification in a relevant health/societal/psychology or other cognate discipline such as:

  • Health and Social Care
  • Nursing
  • Occupational Therapy
  • Psychology
  • Sociology/Social Studies
  • Law/Legal studies
  • Teaching/Education


A minimum of a 2:2 classification in any discipline together with a proven record of experience of engaging directly with Service Users in a professional setting. Candidates’ experience will be considered individually on application but we would normally expect a minimum of one year’s experience – either paid or voluntary – in a setting such as a local authority or a health or social care provider in the private, voluntary or independent sector.

In addition, all candidates must

  • Have GCSE grade A* – C in English and mathematics or certified equivalent. These are non-negotiable so if you are thinking of applying and you don’t have your Maths or English – think about retaking that qualification now!
  • Demonstrate IT competence through self-declaration.
  • 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 a health check. If, in exceptional circumstances, there are serious doubts about a student’s fitness to practise on health grounds, the University’s doctor may ask him/her to undergo a medical examination. This examination will be at the applicant's own expense.

You must be able to upload your certificates onto the application site and bring the original certificates for these and your degree certificate with you to the Assessment Centre. We won’t be able to interview you without these certificates so if you don’t have them and are thinking of applying, it would be a good idea to obtain replacements now.

You must also have relevant experience in a children and families setting. This can be in a work or voluntary capacity. So if you are thinking of applying and your experience is limited, you can maximize your chances by doing things now to increase your experience.

More information about the course is available on the Open University website.

There is a formal admissions process, requiring applicants to:

  • Complete an OU application form, which will include a personal statement, references and employer endorsement.
  • Complete a declaration of suitability for social work
  • Undertake a written test
  • Take part in an interview/selection process.

Keep an eye on our announcements page and on our vacancies page each summer (May / June are typical launch months)

If you think you meet the criteria and want some more information nearer the time, please email Dev.Prof@plymouth.gov.uk and put 'Trainee Social Worker Enquiry' in the subject box.