Lord Andrew Adonis is a Labour Party politician, life peer, academic and journalist. He was Minister for Schools and Transport Secretary under Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, during which time he pioneered public service reforms such as the Academy programme and the plan to develop the new high-speed rail line HS2. He was also a key supporter of Teach First – an initiative aiming to improve teaching standards for children from low-income communities by training graduates to become inspirational teachers and leaders. This has enjoyed great success and Lord Adonis is now focusing on improving the image of children’s social work by chairing Frontline, another graduate training scheme.

For those who don’t know about Frontline, could you briefly tell us what it aims to do and why it was originally set up?

Frontline is a fantastic new opportunity for final year students and graduates from Nottingham to make a real difference in society. It’s the equivalent of Teach First for children in social work and it creates a new career path into social work, but with excellent training and support and with a commitment to serve for only two years – although as with Teach First, participants may end up staying for far longer if they enjoy it. We’re looking for 100 successful graduates who can start next year and they’ll be placed in local authorities with supervision in either London or Manchester. We’ve already got more than 500 applicants and more than 3,500 expressions of interest, so it looks as if this is going to be hugely popular, as with Teach First. I strongly urge graduates who want to make a difference in society to consider it.

Are there any particular degrees that you think are most relevant to a career in social services?

No. Not particularly. It’s commitment and enthusiasm that matter. We’re looking for people who have got or are predicted to get a 2:1 or a 1st because you’ve got to be academically able to join Frontline. Also social skills are hugely important. The job of a social worker is academically demanding, but also very challenging in other ways and we need graduates with a wide range of skills and abilities to take on these roles. Equally, I cannot think of a job with the potential to be more rewarding in making a difference to the life chances of children – except perhaps teaching.

At the moment we have very high vacancy rates for social workers and very high turnover rates. This means that young people are being short changed. This is an opportunity to change that radically in the same way as Teach First changed it for teaching in comprehensive schools a decade ago.

What gave you the inspiration and motivation to get involved with this?

Well, I was in care myself as a child so I understand the world of social work quite intimately. It has long seemed to me that we could do something similar to Teach First for children in social work. However, the decisive moment to taking this forward was when Josh MacAlister [Chief Executive of Frontline] became a potential project manager. Josh is a very successful former Teach First teacher whose dad is a former director of social services. So he understands this area well, and when he came to me with the idea I thought this was the right time and context to make it work and it is proving highly successful. There is a great team involved. The government is supporting it strongly, including funding all the placements, and it looks as though we are going to be massively over-subscribed in terms of applicants. We’ll get a really outstanding first cohort of Frontline participants next year, but we are still not closed for applications. They don’t close until the end of November, so it is a golden opportunity for final year Nottingham students and those who have recently graduated.

Will you be at the Graduate Fair here in Nottingham?

Yes. It’s next Monday and there’s going to be a Frontline stall there. All potential recruits should think about it seriously

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