Police Federation

Officers bearing brunt of disorganised degree scheme

26 July 2019

Professional Development Lead Dave Bamber

Professional Development Lead Dave Bamber

Lessons must be learnt to improve the delivery of a new police constable entry route after some worrying feedback from student officers, the professional development lead for the Police Federation of England and Wales (PFEW) has urged.

PFEW’s research team spoke to multiple officers currently studying for a degree as part of the College of Policing’s Police Constable Degree Apprenticeship (PCDA) programme, which all new constables who are not already graduates when they join the police will be expected to study.

Many felt they were drip-fed information from the outset, causing uncertainty over important aspects of employment such as pay progression, and terms and conditions, as well as the structure of training. 

Trying to juggle studying for a full-time degree with their job - completing all the training a probationer would have had to do in the past - is also having a negative impact on maintaining a healthy work-life balance.

The findings will be fed into the College of Policing’s 12-month review on the programme in autumn and will also help the Federation understand how it can support and represent current and future cohorts of new recruits.

Dave Bamber, professional development lead for PFEW, said: “The Federation has always supported policing being recognised as the profession it is, and for the wide variety of skills our members possess being officially acknowledged.

“However, we do have some concerns about the way the changes to recruitment into the service are being introduced, and the ability of some forces to be able to implement them; these unsurprising findings confirm all our worries which we aired from the outset.

“The fact our members are currently experiencing these problems does not sit well with us. We acknowledge, more times than not, there are teething issues when it comes to launching new schemes, however, moving forward, lessons need to be learnt because officers are now bearing the brunt of parts of the scheme that have not been fully bottomed out before its introduction.

“Fitting in studying around work will always be difficult and can take a toll on work-life balance, but if the degree apprenticeship can be improved by making it more streamlined and keeping our members fully informed from the very beginning and throughout, it could make their experience less stressful.”

Worryingly, shift sergeants had also often been told little or nothing about the PCDA programme, and the PCDA officers themselves were expected to brief their sergeants about what the scheme was.

Other findings include:

  • A sense amongst interviewees the salary was better suited to younger officers with fewer personal or financial commitments which could put people off joining in the future
  • Some officers felt there were benefits to obtaining a degree during their training, but many just saw it as a hoop they needed to jump through if they wanted to become a police officer
  • Some officers reported they were under pressure by the university to achieve higher marks than was necessary to pass the course just so the university could meet its performance targets
  • Concerns about fitting in with new colleagues, with a feeling they may be viewed differently if they are having time off to study when the team needs them – or if another officer isn’t allowed time off as a result of the force having to work rotas around the student officers

Mr Bamber added: “I want to thank the officers involved in this research for sharing their experiences, and we intend to continue to speak to them and others, to not only give our members a voice, but to help shape the future of the PCDA.

“We support all our members - however they join the job - and we will continue to work closely with forces and the College of Policing, feeding in these findings, to ensure the training received is adequate, appropriate and fully equips them for the unique career policing provides. We value high-level training for our officers, but at the end of the day, we need to make sure it is delivered.

“On a positive note, I am really pleased the pay review body recognised last week that student officers will have the same progression pay as those on existing programmes, which means those joining the service will continue to attract the current incremental pay rises through their probationary period,” he concluded.

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