This article examines the issues arising from student placements in the private or commercial sector. It focuses on private residential care for adults, as the most developed area of private provision in the UK, and explores the background to this form of provision. The article then considers the private sector placement from the viewpoints of the student, the private sector agency and the educational institution. A checklist for social work educators considering placements in the private sector draws together some of the key issues. The article ends with a discussion of the pragmatic, moral, logistic and educational perspectives which influence attitudes towards the private sector.