About the Surrey Children's Services Academy

What does the Academy do?

The role of the Academy is to provide learning and development learning and development opportunities to increase the skill and confidence of the Children, Families and Lifelong Learning Directorate workforce and their Partners. Opportunities provided by the Academy are available to:

  • All staff within the Children, Families and Lifelong Learning (CFLL) Directorate
  • The children's workforce in Surrey through the Surrey Safeguarding Children Partnership
  • Surrey County Council's Foster Carers

The key areas of our work include:

Delivering learning offer for staff to support development

We provide an internal learning and development offer to all staff in the Directorate. We use various methods and resources to support continuous professional development and career progression. The internal learning offer is aligned to the directorate priorities, Ofsted recommendations and learning from audits annually. ​​​​​​​

We conduct learning evaluations in to assess the impact learning has on practice and to demonstrate its value. The Academy works to raise professional standards, introduce and embed new skills, values and ways of working and to provide up to date knowledge and research to support outstanding practice.

Scroll down to the bottom of the page to view our full learning offer!

Coordinating and commissioning the Partnership learning offer

We deliver a multi-agency Safeguarding (core and specialist) learning offer for the children's workforce within the Surrey Safeguarding Children Partnership (SSCP). We work closely with the SSCP and Partners to improve relationships, collaboration and evaluation of the multi-agency training offer.

Supporting practitioners in training

We support student social workers and newly qualified social workers undertaking their Assessed and Supported Year in Employment (ASYE) ensuring they have the right support in place to be able to learn, grow and develop. ​​​​​​​

Our specialist Assessors provide support to and assess newly qualified social workers through their Assessed and Supported Year in Employment. Our specialist Practice Educators support and assess students, Work Based Supervisors and some Practice Educators in Social Care Teams.

Supporting the recruitment, retention and culture strategy

We work with teams and services including the Surrey Safeguarding Children Partnership to deliver initiatives which help us to recruit, develop and retain a highly skilled and stable workforce. We work with service representatives to develop and implement new schemes to support workers to progress in their careers.

Meet the Team

Alex McKnight, Head of Surrey Children's Services Academy

Hi, I'm Alex McKnight, Head of the Academy. I was originally seconded into the post in the first half of 2022, and then returned permanently in July 2023 after I had my second little boy.

I have worked in Surrey since 2010, originally as a social worker in what was then the Child Protection team in Woking, and then I worked my way up within the Looked After Service to Team Manager and Service Manager- later managing Careleavers aswell. It was a real privilege seeing many of the children's journeys all the way to adulthood or being settled permanently outside of care over the 10 years in that service, and seeing the difference the social workers and PAs' care, support and creativity in the social work teams made over time to the children.

I'm really passionate about staff recruitment, retention, career development and learning opportunities, and the Academy works closely with colleagues in CFLL and the Surrey Children's Safeguarding Partnership to work creatively and robustly to support the workforce in these areas.

Elaine Thomas, Deputy Head of Academy and Professional Development for Children's Social Care

Hi, I'm Elaine Thomas Deputy Head of Academy and Professional Development for Children's Social Care.

I have worked for Surrey since 1999 and moved into the Surrey Children's Services Academy in 2019.

I am passionate about making a difference for children, young people and families and the professionals who work with them and my role in the academy allows me to make a small contribution to making a difference for all. I have worked in Learning and Development for most of my 25 years at the council.

I have responsibility for the learning and development of the following areas Family Safeguarding/Resilience, Corporate Parenting, Inclusion and Additional Needs, some services in Quality Assurance and Foster Carers.

Lee Donoghue, Professional Development Manager

Hi, I'm Lee, Professional Development Manager for the Academy. I really value lifelong learning and the opportunities it provides, so it's a pleasure to work with such a great team to help support and develop our workforce.

I've worked in Learning and Development in four very different industries. Each has shaped my perspective and contributed to my approach to learning and how best to support our CFLL and partnership teams which do so much for children and families.

In my role, I help to identify and fulfil the learning needs of our multi-agency partnership and the wider directorate.

Siobhan Doyle, New and Developing Social Workers Manager

Hi, I'm Siobhan, I manage the New and Developing Social Workers Team. We support student social​ workers on their placements in training, newly qualified social workers (NQSW) undertaking their Assessed and​ Supported Year in Employment (ASYE) in Surrey Children's and support staff in the year following ASYE as they consolidate their social work practice – we are growing our post qualifying programme called PQ2. Our focus is to have the right support in place, to enable a training social​ worker to learn, grow and develop in their early career, in order to deliver best practice to children, young people and their families.

Contact us

For any enquiries, please email us at surreychildrens.academy@surreycc.gov.uk.

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