Methods and quality of education in social work have been scrutinised increasingly closely in recent years, particularly the linkage between academic teaching and practical placements and the social and emotional stress involved. In exploring the role of peer mentoring in this context, the practice of mentoring is defined and aspects of its organisation and utility discussed. A pilot project involving cross-year student mentoring during the induction to pre-service training in social work is described. A review and participant evaluation of this pilot project is linked with results of a placement needs assessment and stress analysis exercise conducted with first year social work students, exploring the helping potential of mentoring. The results of a survey of the use of mentoring and peer tutoring in social work education establishments in the UK lead to consideration of the implications for teaching and learning methods in social work for the future.