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Managers and senior managers

Pathway 3: heads of service

Heads of service, service managers, principal social workers, operational managers, strategic leads
12 months
Time commitment
88 hours (the equivalent of 11 days)

Free except for travel for in-person modules

Delivered by


Who it’s for

Pathway 3 is for heads of service or service managers in local authorities who are responsible for the performance of a service area. 

Experienced middle or team managers who want to become heads of service can also do Pathway 3.

What you’ll learn

Completing Pathway 3 will help you:

  • set and communicate an ambitious and inspiring vision for your service
  • put anti-racism and inclusion at the heart of your strategy
  • use adaptive leadership to manage uncertainty
  • problem-solve specific issues and challenges
  • influence political and corporate decisions
  • lead change and manage improvement at a service-wide level
  • lead strategic relationships with multi-agency partners

What you’ll get

When you finish Pathway 3 you’ll get:

It'll help prepare:

  • current heads of service to access Pathway 4 for practice leaders
  • aspiring heads of service for promotion to head of service roles

How it’s delivered


Pathway 3:

  • lasts for 12 months
  • takes about 88 hours to complete
  • runs once a year starting in November

In-person learning

There are 4 days on site at the University of Warwick run as separate 2-day residentials.

Sessions are run by social work leaders and leadership development experts and include:

  • keynote talks
  • discussion time
  • practical workshops
  • time to build relationships with peers

There is also a day visit to an innovative social work practice, either in another local authority or organisation like a charity.

Online learning


  • live interactive workshops run by sector experts
  • one-to-one coaching with a dedicated development coach
  • peer-led practice groups
  • self-directed study sessions with a mix of reading, videos and reflection

You'll do about 38 hours of online learning. Each session lasts 1.5 to 3 hours.


Pathway 3 is funded by the Department for Education.

Accommodation and meals for the on-site days are included, but your employer will need to cover travel costs.

Next steps

Applications for Pathway 3 are currently closed.

We'll update this page when applications open.