When I was asked to review this book, I was delighted to accept. The title reflects my own interest in the subject, although the history of school social work in this country is relatively short and under-developed. There was a time when some education welfare officers (EWOs) were also qualified social workers and there were also authorities that even seconded workers onto social work qualification courses. This practice was never widespread and had also disappeared in the 1980s. There have been various attempts to bridge the divide, such as NSPCC school teams (Baginsky, 2004) and the extended schools initiative (Wilkin et al., 2008). But, as with school counsellors, while there are schools that employ social workers, it is not a feature of school life as it is in the USA. In many parts of the USA, it is a specialised area of practice within the broad field of the social work profession. The editors and contributors to the book are to be congratulated on its breadth. It is possible to understand more about the purpose and breadth of the role in relation to students, parents, school staff and the wider community. It is a good source of information for those who want to understand more about education services in general, and school social work particularly, in other countries, especially the USA. It covers a range of topics in the sixteen sections from the history of school social work, though its evidence base and fit within a multi-professional approach to speculation on the future of the profession in an environment that has become less sympathetic and where achievement is prioritised over welfare. This must reflect editorial decisions but it would help the reader to understand the rationale that guided the decisions. Very few readers will pick it up and read it from cover to cover but those that do will find it is shot through with repetition across the sections, especially about the history and politics of school social work, reflecting perhaps the different purposes for which some sections were written. The book does, however, lack a coherence and at times it is hard to distinguish the purpose of the book. Some sections read as if they could be articles intended for social policy journals, while others appear to be taken from text books and contain activities and discussion questions. At various points in the book, reference is made to over fifty countries recognising the profession but, as one is the UK, it is not clear what recognition means and how extensive school social work is in some of the countries mentioned. Although the subtitle is National Perspectives on Practice in Schools, it is a US national perspective—most of the content is about the USA and very few contributors come from other countries. The international references are interesting and descriptions of the development of school social work in Azerbaijan and practice in Japan and Singapore are illuminating, but in some ways they are a distraction. It is worth recognising that there are two sections that will resonate with readers in this country. Chapter 5 deals with the changing context of school social work practice. Not only does it provide an excellent summary of contemporary education policy in the USA; it also sets it against the reforms intended to drive up standards and the No Child Left Behind agenda and the inherent conflict with aspects of the social work role. In view of the much-needed attention which is currently focused on supporting the mental health needs of children and young people, the model of multi-agency collaboration described by Ray and Ahlman in Chapter 11 will be of interest. Even though I had reservations and some frustrations, overall I think it does achieve what it set out to do—to provide a contemporary understanding of school social work practice given the changing educational context. It is disappointing that the intention became submerged by including too much else. References Baginsky M. ( 2004 ) Evaluation of the NSPCC’s School Teams Service , London , NSPCC . Wilkins A. , Murfield J. , Lamont E. , Kinder K. , Dyson P. ( 2008 ) The Value of Social Care Professionals Working in Extended Schools , Slough , National Foundation for Educational Research . © The Author 2017. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of The British Association of Social Workers. All rights reserved. This article is published and distributed under the terms of the Oxford University Press, Standard Journals Publication Model (https://academic.oup.com/journals/pages/about_us/legal/notices)
The British Journal of Social Work – Oxford University Press
Published: Sep 1, 2018
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