What happens to the graduates of fast-track child and family social work programmes in the world of practice – do they stay? what are their working conditions? do they get promoted?


This research project involved following up graduates from the two fast-track social work programmes for child and family social work in England – Step Up to Social Work and Frontline – to assess their retention in social work and career progression.

This four-year study, funded by the Department for Education, aimed to investigate the longer-term outcomes (to March 2021) for Frontline Cohorts 1 to 5 and Step Up Cohorts 4 and 5.

The research questions were as follows:

  • What are the employment destinations and trajectories of fast-track graduates after they complete Step Up or Frontline programmes?
  • What are the retention rates within social work over time for each of the fast-track cohorts?
  • Are fast-track graduates who enter social work progressing to supervision or leadership roles and if so, how quickly?
  • What are the longer term career plans and aspirations of fast-track graduates?
  • What are the destinations of fast-track candidates who exit the programmes before completion, those who complete the programmes but do not enter social work and those who enter but later leave the profession? And what are their reasons for leaving?
  • What are the push/ pull factors affecting retention in child and family social work amongst fast track graduates?
  • Is the typology of career trajectories developed in previous Step Up studies transferable to Frontline graduates and what does this typology tell us about supervising and managing the workforce?
  • What coping strategies do fast-track graduates employ? What impact could these have on future workforce management?

Activities and Methods

We conducted annual surveys and interviewed a sub-group of survey respondents, as well as some employers. For non-respondents, we checked if they were professionally registered as social workers in England.


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Lead Person

Principal InvestigatorJonathan Scourfield

Academic Staff

ResearcherNina Maxwell
ResearcherNell Warner
ResearcherRoger Smith
ResearcherJohn Carpenter
ResearcherEvgenia Stepanova
ResearcherChloe O’Donnell
Related SchoolsDepartment of Sociology, Durham University
Related partnersDepartment for Education