Practice Learning

Practice Leaning Centre (PLC)

There is a dynamic and ever growing voluntary sector in Northern Ireland, providing a range of services across many areas of need. Bryson has historically provided significant social care services in its own right. In addition, Bryson's Practice Learning Centre has played a key role in contributing to the direct provision and development of practice learning opportunities in the wider voluntary sector, and has been involved in this in some shape or form since 1915, when as the then Belfast Council for Social Welfare in partnership with Queen’s University, Belfast set up the School of Sociology to train and offer placements to social work students, or almoners as they were then known. 


Bryson Care Practice Learning Centres actively participate in the wide range of representational, direct teaching and development activities associated with social work training in NI.  An essential part of our work is to ensure that professional standards of service are promoted in the voluntary sector.  The Practice Learning Centre is managed by Siobhan Wylie, Senior Manager, Bryson Care who has been in this post since September 2008. 

Practice Teaching

In April 2007 the Northern Ireland Social Care Council (NISCC) approved Bryson as a Designated Practice Learning provider, with conditions in line with the NISCC Standards for Practice Learning for the Degree in Social Work 2006.  Bryson currently provides practice learning opportunities within some of our own services e.g. Family Supports, and also works in partnership with other Voluntary Sector agencies such as Belfast and Lisburn Women’s Aid Service, Mindwise, the Alzheimer’s Society and also with Homecare Independent Living.

The Practice Learning Centre welcomes the opportunity to forge new Associate Provider partnerships within the voluntary and community sectors; please contact the PLC Manager to discuss the opportunity for your agency to host a Bryson Social Work (BSW) student.

Practice Learning Centre Derry/L'Derry

The Practice Learning Centre has been providing quality assured practice learning opportunities in the North West since 1995. Over the years, we have worked with many voluntary and community agencies to contribute to social work student’s professional learning and development.

Both centres are contracted and funded by the Northern Ireland Social Care Council to provide 24 student placements in each academic year. Bryson Care Practice Learning, Western Services is a Designated Practice Learning Provider (DPLP) registered with the NISCC since April 2007. We work in partnership with a range of Associate Providers within the North and West Region.  Associate Providers currently include; Women’s Aid (various sites), First Housing Aid and Support Services, IncludeYouth, Simon Community and Voice Of Young People In Care (VOYPIC).  As with our Belfast office The Practice Learning Centre welcomes the opportunity to forge new Associate Provider partnerships within the voluntary and community sectors; please contact the PLC Manager to discuss the opportunity for your agency to host a BSW student.

Students placed through the Practice Learning Centre access a range of additional professional development days, themed support sessions, individual and group supervision sessions as part of our robust quality assured, award winning, practice learning experience, both Bryson Care Practice Learning Centres aim to be regional centres of excellence for practice learning in social work in Northern Ireland, and beyond.

Gortfoyle House


(Left to Right) Siobhán Wylie and Caoimhe Harkin MacDermott

Introducing the PLC Manager in Derry/L'Derry

Caoimhe Harkin MacDermott took up the post of Practice Learning Centre Manager in (Bryson Care Western Services) in February 2017, after saying goodbye to Cheryl McMullin who had taken up a post with the University of Ulster at Magee.  A new relationship between Caoimhe and Siobhan was forged, further unifying the two practice learning centres.

The main aspects of both roles include the strategic development the Practice Learning Centre as a central tenet for voluntary sector social work education and training. The management of the contractual obligations with the Northern Ireland Social Care Council; fulfilling responsibilities associated with the Designated Practice Learning Provider Scheme, and meeting the NISCC Standards for Practice Learning Providers. It is essential to develop strong working partnerships with Associate Providers and other key stakeholders; to facilitate the day-to-day and strategic management of the Practice Learning Centre. Both centres have experienced independent practice teachers who offer professional supervision and support to students on placement.


What makes our placements exceptional?

One of Bryson’s core values is to “develop individual potential” and we feel that by adopting a consistent adult learning approach, Bryson PLC enables students to reach and achieve their full potential in an environment that is both nurturing and supportive. The support we offer goes that extra step and we take a person-centred approach, focusing on each student’s individual strengths and weaknesses. We aim to build upon those strengths and address their weaknesses in order to help students become sound and competent practitioners.

Our approach allows us to work with a diverse range of students as we will always adapt to an individual’s needs and we are prepared for any issues that may arise throughout their placement. Student feedback through evaluation indicates that they feel supported throughout their placements and that we consistently meet their needs.  Bryson’s Vision is to be a leader in creating a just and sustainable society and we feel that our contribution to the development of a social-work workforce that is fit for purpose plays a significant role in this.

We ask each cohort of students to evaluate our service and in 2017:

  • 100% of students felt their learning needs were met
  • 100% of students rated their overall satisfaction with the service as excellent
  • 100% of students felt the level of support from their Practice Teacher was excellent


Practice Learning Centre Awards/Teaching Conferences  

Both Bryson Care Practice Learning Centre's were short listed and won the Ulster University of  Short Term Placement Employer of the Year Awards in 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2014, evidencing the recognition that they have achieved in terms of being Centres of Excellence.

Both Practice Learning Centres have also been involved in a number of high profile conferences:

In 2014 they presented at both the UK wide Practice Learning Conference in Glasgow and the Renowned JSWEC (Journal of Social Work Education Conference) in relation to their model of ‘Doing Relationship – Based Social Work’.They also presented at the Athens Institute for Education and Research in 2015.This in turn led to a book being commissioned by Jessica Kingsley Publishers, London on the model, which has gone on to be an important text for social work students and practitioners alike.

In November of 2016 we were asked by Thomas Moore University in Geel Belgium if we would input into their 2017 teaching conference.

We taught and presented in partnership with a colleague from the Ulster University and discussed our model of practice learning here in Northern Ireland with an emphasis on the seamless transition on ‘From the classroom to the Field’. We also presented on this at the UK Practice Learning Conference in Belfast in April 2016.


Costs & Eligibility/Training

Social work students undertaking the BSC Degree in Social Work throughout Northern Ireland can avail of placements through Bryson. There is no charge to students for our service. Allocation of practice learning opportunities is managed through its Regional Allocation Group made up of representatives from the Degree in Social Work programme, statutory and voluntary agencies.


Undergraduate Support –Social Work Degree

The Practice Learning Centres are currently providing twenty-four practice learning opportunities for BSW students on the degree in Social Work, twelve at level two and twelve at level three. At present, a range of qualified practice teachers are responsible for assessing a student’s competence via the Practice Learning Centre. The PLC Manager is responsible for the supervision and auditing of Independent Practice Teachers who are sub contracted through the PLC.

The Practice Learning Centre offers a diverse and robust package of student support including a comprehensive 3-day induction covering roles and responsibilities, learning styles, child protection awareness and community/ demographic profiling. In addition, there are six themed support groups covering a range of relevant topics to further develop and inform students. There is also an input from statutory agency partners. Information sessions, supervision training and Practice Learning Opportunity (PLO) planning sessions are provided for On Site Supervisors and Line Managers.

The PLC managers contribute to the training and assessment of students prior to them commencing their placements in year 1 of their degree course. This is in partnership with the degree course provider Ulster University, FE colleges and Queen’s University Belfast. This module is preparation for practice and enables students to professionally develop and be prepared prior to their practice learning opportunity. The PLC Mangers are involved in partnership with the Universities in interviewing potential social work degree students.

The PLC’s also supervise and assess on the Northern Ireland Practice Teachers Training Programme, and contribute to the teaching.  Both Bryson Care Mangers also have representation for the voluntary sector on various assessment panels and boards.



We endeavour to provide an excellent service and as such monitor our performance against our Customer Service Standards. We have set targets for achieving these standards and where they dip below we analyse the reasons why and make improvements.

We have specific standards about the quality of our service which are measured through our evaluation. These are:

  • Be polite and treat you with respect.
  • Be open and honest in their approach to working with you.
  • Listen to you.
  • Be reliable, effective and efficient in their dealings with you.
  • Provide a safe and supportive learning environment throughout the life of your placement.
  • Adhere to the NISCC Practice Learning guidelines and Bryson's Data Protection Policy in relation to confidentiality.

We also have specific standards about the timeliness of our service. These are:

  • Respond to contact messages before the end of the same working day. If message left after 5pm, the Practice Teacher will contact you the next morning.
  • Let you know within 7 working days of taking extended annual leave.
  • Let you know immediately if they are ill and unable to make an appointment or meet a deadline.


PLC Journey Pathway

To facilitate continuous improvement a journey mapping exercise is completed for each cohort of students at the start, middle and end of their placement to assess their satisfaction with the service provided by the Practice Learning Centre on an on-going basis. The Journey Pathway collects essential feedback on the quality of service over the life of the placement. The Pathway evaluates five elements of customer satisfaction, alongside an element unique to Bryson; - having an offsite practice teacher. The six elements addressed are:

  • Service delivery
  • Timeliness
  • Professionalism
  • Information
  • Staff attitude
  • Having an offsite practice teacher

We have a comprehensive set of Customer Service Standards that outline what we will provide to our service users (students) throughout their placement. We review the Customer Service Standards annually to ensure they remain meaningful and relevant and we would welcome any suggestions or recommendations for improvement. If you would like to make a comment on our Customer Service Standards please contact Siobhan Wylie, Senior Manager Social Work & Training.  To view our Customer Service Standards see below

Key Contact

Siobhán Wylie (PLC Belfast)

Bryson House 28 Bedford Street Belfast BT2 7FE

Caoimhe Harkin MacDermott (PLC L/Derry)

Gortfoyle House 104-108 Spencer Road L/Derry BT47 6AG
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