Education welfare officers aim to make sure that young people get the best possible education. They work with young people whose education is being affected by irregular attendance or absence from school.
Poor attendance at school can be caused by many different factors. These include family problems (for example, the young person may have to act as a carer), health and psychological problems, bullying, inability to cope with school work, poor relationships with teachers, peer pressure, pregnancy, or lack of family support.
The job involves:
Education welfare officers tend to work from 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday. There is also some evening work, for example, when visiting parents who may be out during the day, or going to school events such as parents' evenings.
They are usually based in a centre or school, often as part of a multi-disciplinary team. Some education welfare officers work from home.
Much time is spent away from their office meeting other professionals, and on home visits to young people and their parents. They travel around the local area, particularly if they are responsible for more than one school. Education welfare officers need a driving licence and can normally claim a car allowance as part of their job package.
Education welfare workers in England and Wales are employed by local authorities. In Northern Ireland, they work for education and library boards. Some social workers in Scotland specialise in education welfare and attendance issues. Many schools employ attendance officers, and some education welfare officers are directly managed by schools.
Vacancies for education welfare officers are advertised in The Times Educational Supplement, The Guardian, Community Care, local newspapers and on local authority websites.
All applicants are required to have Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) checks prior to taking up employment.
Although many educational welfare officers have degrees, requirements vary between employers. There are no set minimum entry requirements in England and Wales, but entry with no qualifications is unlikely.
Some authorities now require a degree in social work. Applicants with a qualification in social work, youth and community work, or similar qualifications, may be offered higher starting salaries. In Northern Ireland, all new entrants must now hold a social work qualification.
Initial training for new staff covers areas such as child protection, personal safety, equal opportunities, and offers an introduction to working with other agencies involved with young people.
Further training depends on the qualifications people have. Many education welfare officers are encouraged to do a degree or postgraduate course in social work after entry. The other alternative in England and Wales is an NVQ Level 3 or (for most officers) Level 4 in Learning, Development and Support Services for Children, Young People and Those who Care for Them.
A three-year degree or a two-year postgraduate course in social work is available at several universities, with some part-time options. Degree courses usually require a minimum of two A levels/three H grades and five GCSE's/S grades (A-C/1-3), including English and maths. In Northern Ireland, three A levels/five H grades are required for social work degrees. Equivalent qualifications may be accepted.
Entry requirements may vary, so candidates should check with individual colleges or universities.
Previous experience of work with young people is useful and often required by employers. It is possible to gain experience through voluntary or paid work - through Community Service Volunteers (CSV), youth work, counselling, social care, classroom support, mentoring, or crisis support centres.
Playworkers work with children and young people to provide a safe, exciting and fun space in which to play, socialise, try out new things or just spend quiet time. Working in teams, they may work with children ranging between the ages of four and sixteen, or with one particular age group.
The idea of freely chosen, self-directed play is integral to playwork and all playwork settings aim to encourage children and young people to decide and control the content and intent of their play by following their own instincts, ideas and interests, in their own way for their own reasons.
There are about 4,500 education welfare officers employed in England and Wales, with a further 150 in Northern Ireland. Demand for education welfare officers is steady, but competition for jobs is stronger in some parts of the UK than others.
It is possible to specialise in areas such as working with children who have special educational needs, with children of primary school age, or in re-integrating children into mainstream education.
Promotion is possible to more senior posts, such as team leader, manager or senior and principal education welfare officer. It may be necessary to change employers to gain promotion.
Education welfare officers may move into related areas of work, such as youth work, social services, Connexions, the probation service or educational psychology.
An education welfare officer should:
Northern Ireland Social Care Council, 7th Floor,
Millennium House, 19-25 Great Victoria Street, Belfast BT2 7QA
Tel: 02890 417600
Care Council for Wales, 6th Floor,
South Gate House, Wood Street, Cardiff CF10 1EW
Tel: 029 2022 6257
Children's Workforce Development Council, 3rd Floor,
Friends Provident House, 13-14 South Parade Leeds LS1 5QS
Tel: 0113 244 6311
National Association of Social Workers in Education