Degrees and courses for international students
You are viewing information for England.  Change country.

Foundations for social work practice

Qualification dates
Start End

Are you interested in social work or social care? Whatever your starting point, this key introductory OU level 1 module will develop your knowledge of the key roles of social care/social work, and introduce the standards and codes of practice relevant to each UK nation. You will also build key skills in information and communication technologies (ICT), information literacy and reflective writing. This module includes completion of a practice portfolio based on your current experience (within six months of module start) of paid or voluntary work in an appropriate social care setting. Your work experience should include provision of information on accessing services, and contribution to assessment, planning, delivery and review. The module also includes attendance at three practice skills workshops, and four online tutorials.

This is a compulsory module of the Certificate of Higher Education in Social Care Practice (Wales) and provides a qualification for employees in the social care workforce who make a vital contribution to assessment, review and evaluation of social care services. The Certificate has been chosen by the Care Council for Wales for its pilot Social Services Practitioner programme.

Registration on this module doesn't lead to automatic entry to a social work degree. To register for this degree, you must meet a number of criteria, outlined in the sections on the BA (Hons) Social Work (Wales).

This module is only for students in Wales and you should have recent paid or unpaid experience in a social care setting.

Students studying in England or Scotland should refer to Foundations for social work practice (K113).

What you will study

The module concentrates on writing about practice, and learning how to apply theoretical learning to practice contexts. The module is divided into eight blocks of learning. Each block covers a particular aspect of understanding social work and use case study material to illustrate and apply these ideas into practice situations.

Block 1 - provides an overview of some of the ideas about how individual psychology and identity are relevant to all social work settings. This includes what values underpin professional identity in the complex situations social workers deal with.

Block 2 - explores the social context that is important both to understand how services are delivered, but also the wider supports and environments that can support or restrict people’s opportunities and life chances. How social workers are concerned with these inequalities, and issues of social justice are examined.

Block 3 - uses children and family work to consider how and why social workers might come to be engaged with people.

Block 4 - concentrates on using issues facing older people in coming to consider the skills and approaches to formal assessment in social work, and how to establish an understanding of someone’s situation.

Block 5 - develops social work approaches of groups and community work to support people with mental health distress. The themes of stigma and discrimination are explored in particular and the models of the constructive ways social workers can address these issues.

Block 6 - provides information about adults with learning disabilities and in particular how their engagement in reviews of services they receive personally, or more general service reviews and evaluations is an important principle for social work with all who use services and their carers.

Block 7 - uses models of work with families with children with disabilities to consider partnership working and ideas of early intervention in social work.

Block 8 - concentrates on the issues of professional development and understanding of the personal and regulatory requirements for individuals wishing to develop their professionalism generally or continue with the social work programme.

The module draws upon case-study-based teaching but also assumes you will be working in a practice context through which you can contextualise your learning. You must demonstrate an awareness and understanding of diversity and inequality, and develop an awareness of yourself as a reflective practitioner.

During this module you will develop your ICT skills and can gain marks for this both in continuous assessment and in the end-of-module assessment. There are also online discussions that take place immediately after each workshop to continue your interactions with your tutor and fellow students and develop your online communication skills.

Professional recognition

This is one of a set of modules that together constitute an approved programme leading to a Degree in Social Work approved by the Care Council for Wales.

Entry requirements

This is a key introductory OU level 1 module. OU level 1 modules provide core subject knowledge and study skills needed for both higher education and distance learning, which help you to progress to modules at OU level 2.

If your employer is sponsoring you to study this module as part of the social work programme, you must be registered for the BA (Hons) Social Work (Wales) with the University, and be registered as a social work student with the Care Council for Wales.

You can study this module independently or as a sponsored student. If you are not sponsored onto the social work degree programme by your employer, you will need to speak to a member for the Wales Learner Support Team prior to registering for this module, in order to confirm the suitability of your practice experience. As an independent, you will not be a ‘social work student’.  In order to gain a place on the social work degree programme, you will need to have successfully completed the Certificate in Higher Education in Social Care (Wales) referred to above, meet the Care Council for Wales requirements for entry to social work education, and go through a competitive selection process.

If you have been sponsored onto the certificate or the social work programme, your sponsoring agency should allow you one day a week study time per 60 credits of study.
Practice Learning is assessed either through completion of a structured portfolio based on your current work experience, or a 20 day practice learning opportunity (an option for social work students only).

Studying social work is demanding, If you have any doubt about the suitability of the module, or you would like further information for sponsoring agencies, please speak to an adviser.

Preparatory work

You will receive guidance of how to get started online in your first module mailing. This will provide you with information on using your computer for OU study and working with the Computing Guide. For example, it explains how to access and use your website and online discussion forums. If you have time before the module starts, you can work through this and explore all the online services available to you.

What's included

All study materials are provided.

You will need

We recommend that you purchase the following book:
Davies, M. (ed) The Blackwell Companion to Social Work (4th edn) Wiley-Blackwell £28.99 - ISBN 9781118451724.

Social work settings almost always require the use of Windows-based computers and Microsoft Office applications. Students should ensure that they have access to the above software for the duration of the programme, and we strongly recommend that they are run on a Microsoft Windows-based computer.

Computing requirements

A computing device with a browser and broadband internet access is required for this module. Any modern browser will be suitable for most computer activities. Functionality may be limited on mobile devices.

Any additional software will be provided, or is generally freely available. However, some activities may have more specific requirements. For this reason, you will need to be able to install and run additional software on a device that meets the requirements below.

A desktop or laptop computer with either:

  • Windows 7 or higher
  • Mac OS X 10.7 or higher

The screen of the device must have a resolution of at least 1024 pixels horizontally and 768 pixels vertically.

To join in the spoken conversation in our online rooms we recommend a headset (headphones or earphones with an integrated microphone).

Our Skills for OU study website has further information including computing skills for study, computer security, acquiring a computer and Microsoft software offers for students.

Teaching and assessment

Support from your tutor

You will have a tutor who will help you with the study material and mark and comment on your written work, and whom you can ask for advice and guidance. Part of your tuition is delivered online so some of the contact with your tutor will be through email and online discussion forums, although phone communication may also be used. If you are new to the OU, you will find that your tutor is particularly concerned to help you with your study methods. You'll attend three one-day practice skills workshops and four online tutorials (normally held on a Saturday) with your tutor group to provide you with the chance to explore the skills needed for social work and social care practice. Requests for excusal from a workshop are dealt with by the tutor who is running it. Compensatory activities will be assigned by your tutor for any workshops that are missed. Questions of a professional practice should be directed to your tutor. 

Contact us if you want to know more about study with The Open University before you register.


The assessment details for this module can be found in the facts box above.

You will be expected to submit your tutor-marked assignments (TMAs) online through the eTMA system unless there are some difficulties which prevent you from doing so. In these circumstances, you must negotiate with your tutor to get their agreement to submit your assignment on paper. You must submit your end-of-module assessment (EMA) online. You will be encouraged to use Welsh in your studies, and academic support is available in Welsh if you need it.

To pass the module, you must have passed the assessment element of the module (TMA14).

The interactive computer-marked assignments (iCMAs) are accessed via the website. You will be able to write your assessed work in either Welsh or English. 

It is a condition of the module assessment that to pass the course you must not have engaged in behaviour that is confirmed as being damaging or dangerous to service users or to other students or programme providers, or that creates an unacceptable risk to yourself or to others.

If you have a disability

The OU strives to make all aspects of study accessible to everyone and this Accessibility Statement outlines what studying KZW113 involves. You should use this information to inform your study preparations and any discussions with us about how we can meet your needs.

Future availability

Approaches to mental health starts once a year – in February. This page describes the module that will start in February 2020. We expect it to start for the last time in February 2022. 

Course work includes:

8 Tutor-marked assignments (TMAs)
3 Interactive computer-marked assignments (iCMAs)
End-of-module assessment
No residential school