Supervision: praxis and purpose
Developing a critical model of practice for those working with children and young people post Munro
By Brian Belton, Justin Hill, Tina Salter and John Peaper

To see sections of this book in a PDF, please click here.

This book provides a critical analysis of both the practice of supervision and the theories behind it, questioning the taken-for-granted notions of supervision that have evolved since their origins in the 1960s.

Exploring an area that has received little in-depth critical research, it brings to the discussion of supervision theory the same level of critical questioning that Belton proposes should be applied within the practice of supervision itself. It hopes to enable supervisors to develop or improve existing practice, and eventually replace the existing 'church' of supervision with a new and more effective, relevant paradigm.

  • examines the theoretical basis of supervision and its purposes and aims
  • examines the potential and actual role of supervision in supporting coaching practice; offers a perspective on the techniques and responses in reflective practice; and considers supervision, and its distinctiveness in relation to coaching, mentoring, psychotherapy and counselling models, and its place in developing best practice in the growing context of coaching
  • highlights the importance of dialogue as the basis of supervision; and explores how dialectical relations can facilitate considered practice and create new directions from mutually questioning encounters
  • looks at the educational purposes and functions of supervision in the light of Martin Buber's philosophy of dialogue
  • explores how reflective practice (based on the fragile and unreliable nature of human memory) can provide a reliable basis on which to advance understanding of professional intervention.

  • It will encourage the reader to:
  • engage in thinking about what supervision is, and what it could be
  • employ logical questioning and critical analysis to their own supervision - either as supervisor or supervisee
  • base supervision on the honing of professional judgment through the reasoned review of practice
  • turn supervision away from something designed to make the supervisee feel better into something that enables the supervisee to 'do better'. (Belton argues that if a supervisor detects the need for therapy or counselling, it would be best practice to make the supervisee aware of this judgement and offer help with referral if required).

  • Based on Belton's work with young people, this book is applicable in various situations, including youth work and social work, and is set within the context of the Munro Review of Child Protection with its emphasis on regular critical supervision. It is also relevant more broadly within welfare and the care-related professions. Suitable for those new to supervision and to more experienced practitioners; and for students, lecturers and researchers; this book can be read through or dipped into as required for reference and practice.

    Paperback. 144 pages. 9781905541782. Published August 2011. £16.95.


  • Anyone working with children, families and young people, whether they are supervisors or supervisees. There is a particular emphasis on youth work and social work, but the book can be as useful in outdoor education, sports education, Connexions, youth justice, education, counselling and nursing.
  • Anyone else interested in supervision, mentoring and coaching more generally: management, human resources.
  • Students, lecturers and researchers in these areas. A valuable library acquisition.


    About the authors
    Supervision: an overview of theory, use, impact and purpose Justin Hill, St Helens Community Volunteers Service, and John Peaper, YMCA George Williams College
    Exploring coaching and the role of supervision Tina Salter, YMCA George Williams College
    Dialogue and dialectic Justin Hill and Brian Belton, YMCA George Williams College
    Buber, education, dialogue and supervision Justin Hill and Brian Belton
    'Believe half of what you see... and none of what you hear...' Brian Belton
    What is supervision? Brian Belton


    Brian Belton
    has worked in youth work related situations around the world, including Israel, the Falkland Islands, the USA, Thailand, Hong Kong, Zambia, South Africa, China and Canada. He is an internationally recognised authority on Gypsy Ethnicity and youth work, having written widely on those subjects and delivering papers most recently in the USA, Greece, Sweden and Slovenia as well as around the UK. He has a BSc from City University, an MA from the University of Essex and a PhD at the University of Kent. He is now a Senior Lecturer with responsibility for supervision at the YMCA George Williams College in London. He is the author of over 20 books.

    Justin Hill is Chief Executive of St Helens YMCA. He has worked at a governance level with services for young people, including sitting on the children's trust boards in Lincolnshire and Merseyside. He has run a foyer project in London, was a housing manager for a 16+ hostel, was deputy chef executive for Lincolnshire YMCA, and was as a member of the Social Inclusion Programme Group of the European Alliance of YMCAs. He has recently finished his EdD at Nottingham University, where he has been studying the educational philosophy of Martin Buber and the practice of work supervision in English YMCAs.

    John Peaper teaches at the YMCA George Williams College. He has over twenty years of youth work experience, from generic and detached work to specialist project work, including working with young offenders, children/adults with Autism, outdoor education and sports coaching. He has worked as a professional Supervisor for ten years, and delivers training relating to this within and the College and beyond.

    Tina Salter has worked in the field of informal education for more than 21 years in both the voluntary and statutory sectors. She was team leader for an inclusion project based in Southwark where she specialised in mentoring and small group work with young people at risk of exclusion and offending. She has a Diploma in Mentoring from Leeds Metropolitan University and a Masters Degree in Coaching and Mentoring Practice at Oxford Brookes University. She teachers at the YMCA George Williams College, and is a programme organiser for the BA (hons) Distance Learning Programme.


    "Here is a refreshing book, for a number of reasons. It is written by youth work specialists who offer a welcome and positive credit to social work. They note that youth work 'has traditionally drawn on social work practice theory to inform delivery, codes of conduct and ethics'... it tackles the subject of supervision from many angles and each page brings fresh insight, with the authors challenging the reader to reconsider different perspectives that have informed supervision practice over the years… it leaves one wanting more of the author's wisdom on such subjects... At the heart of it appears to be Buber's concept of a dialogue by which ideas are engaged with, interrogated in the light of other ideas and held in a dialectic relationship with each other so that the mind is always open to new understandings. I certainly found this inspiring... At no point is there a ringing endorsement of supervision yet the book strangely leaves an impression that supervision does still have an important role to play for learning on both a personal and at a practice level." Professional Social Work.