Developing Together Social Work  Teaching Partnership

Blog Post: The Year of a Practice Education Consultant thus far


By Dale Van Graan, Practice Education Consultant for the Teaching Partnership and Senior Lecturer (Practice Education) for Kingston University


“Would you please write a blog about a day in the life of a Practice Education Consultant?” she asked. “Sure” the reply.   Self-talk: what? How do I do that? Never written a blog before, aren’t those things trendy young people do?….maybe I could ask one of my own young adults to do it for me…… would I begin to explain what it is that I do?……oh just get on with it, Dale….

And so here it is. (Not quite ‘a day in the life of’, more like ‘the year of a Practice Education Consultant thus far…’.)

Where to start, as there is no typical day in the life of a PE Consultant. Much like social work.

Variety is one of the most significant factors that has kept me ‘attached’ to social work for so long. Having been in frontline practice for some years, my career took an unanticipated  sideways ‘slide’ into education, training, consultancy and professional development about 20 years ago and I have not looked back. When the Teaching Partnership Practice Education Consultant role became available around this time last year, it seemed a no-brainer; I  jumped at the opportunity to combine my varied roles, skills and knowledge, to take a risk and step up to the challenge. Who in their right minds would want to work for 14 employers?

The first couple of months felt like a luxury, time to build relationships with colleagues, new and old, time to read and analyse documents, time to talk to key people, assess need and make plans. I can do this.

It took a few months for the team to become complete and the added ‘manpower’ enabled us to switch up a gear, taking ourselves out and about into partner workplaces and talking to people on the frontline about what they wanted from us. Even more fun. Then came the development stage, heads down, building workshops, developing learning and teaching material and beginning to deliver. I know how to do this.


A day in my life as a PE Consultant will start with checking the diary- is it a ‘Partnership day’  or a ‘Kingston University day’ – in theory I have three of the former and one, sometimes two, of the latter each week. As you can imagine, that doesn’t always work out quite as clearly as that, but my head needs to be in the right space for whichever of those it is.

Which site am I based at today – Kingston University, Twickenham Training Centre or another partner worksite?

A quick whatsapp to the rest of the team – who’s where and will I connect with anyone anywhere today? Is everyone ok with what they are doing wherever they are doing it?

That’s it, bags packed, off to deliver the workshop on Becoming Placement Ready with Sarah (my colleague on the Teaching Partnership’s Practice Education Team) in Surrey this morning. Prepared for 12 people, 16 showed up and the room was squashed, but the welcome was warm and the material well received. So many familiar faces – so gratifying to see old tutees now becoming PEs! 

Quick read of feedback, which is very positive; now to summarise it and send to Nicky (Simpson – Faculty Lead for Practitioners in Training, Newly Qualified, Qualified Practitioners and Practice Education). Tweak those few slides to highlight the key message that was getting a bit lost. Ready for next time.

Back to the office at Kingston University to grab some lunch – away from my desk in proper ‘self-care psychology style’ – and preferably with some colleagues, then meet with Josie for supervision.

Just time to read through two more End of Placement Reports to progress the Quality Assurance work Paul and I are doing.  So time consuming but an important part of our role and one which needs concentration, in bite-size chunks.

A few minutes to catch up with emails and send a  ‘special request’ about that student who still needs a placement (why does nobody want to give her a chance?) – how else can I encourage partners to be creative, to think outside the box and work with us, to find a way to meet her learning needs? She deserves a chance, just like every other student. If we could hand pick who we worked with, as Practice Educators, we might have nothing to do.

Oh my goodness, is that the time? Now I’m going to get into the thick of the traffic. There goes gym tonight. Again. Tomorrow is another day. Try again then.

Whatsapp check in with the team. Remind them I’m teaching tomorrow so won’t be available and may appear distracted – because I am; don’t take it personally, it’s my work life. Will catch up with you all at the team meeting to talk about sustainability plans, the next day.

What a ride. Not for the faint-hearted, but, equally, not overwhelmingly terrifying. Great decision, Dale.

And you’ve now written your first blog. New skill.