Police Federation

Worryingly low promotion success rates down to lack of learning time during work

New data has revealed concerningly low promotion success rates for police officers aspiring to take the next steps in their careers.

28 February 2023


New data has revealed concerningly low promotion success rates for police officers aspiring to take the next steps in their careers.

Out of the 13 per cent of officers who told the Police Federation of England and Wales (PFEW) they went for promotion within the last year, just two per cent were successful, and five per cent were not, according to the latest Pay and Morale Survey.

Additionally, six per cent of respondents revealed they were in the process of completing the promotion process, and 87 per cent did not apply for a promotion in the last year.

One of the largest barriers officers seem to be facing is they do not have allocated time to study for the exams.

Dave Bamber, professional development lead and the College of Policing lead, said: “At the moment, there is a legal exam officers are supposed to sit as part of their promotion process but there is no protected learning time (PLT) given to them to study. They are expected to study in their own time, and if they fail that, they must start again.

“Studying during personal time is disadvantageous for certain people, like people with a family or caring responsibilities, and is suited to those who have flexibility outside of work to study. The answer is clear; it benefits those who haven’t got other responsibilities outside of the workplace.

“The proposals moving forward from the College of Policing, which the Federation is  supportive of, are you learn and then you are tested, and that learning is done within working time. It is modular learning that is then assessed which is more structured, more open and creates more opportunities for people.”

On top of the lack of protected learning time, the absence of a standardised work-based assessment is also impeding officers from progressing, with promotion selection processes varying across the 43 forces.

“There needs to be more rigorous enforcement on how people are selected and more standardisation  so we can move away from an organisation where those who are promoted are those particular senior officers may think fits their mould, as opposed to what fits a policing mould and the requirements,” he added.

Furthermore, 31 per cent of members said they were ‘dissatisfied’ or ‘very dissatisfied’ with their promotion prospects and 37 per cent said they were ‘dissatisfied’ or ‘very dissatisfied’ with their opportunities for continuous professional development.

By 2023-24, 38 per cent of police officers nationally will have less than five years’ experience, the National Audit Office calculated, therefore it is vital the service focuses on retention which includes opportunities to progress.

A new programme around processes is being developed but it will not happen overnight, but PFEW is supportive of what appears to be positive moves.

PLT has to be given to officers to offer them a fair chance of passing the promotion process. Issues have been identified and the new proposed programme on the surface looks better, more beneficial, more respective of protected learning and we hope it is supported widely across the service.

Mr Bamber continued: “The organisation and chief constables need to understand the issues that have been caused through some of their selection processes and the management of these systems. This newly developed proposed programme for promotion needs to be embraced and embedded within the service.

“Low percentages in promotions is something policing leaders can tackle and reverse. With new recruits rising, we need more experienced officers to be promoted and that starts with allowing them time to prepare for the promotion process.

“If the organisation wants to invest in its leaders of the future, then it actually needs to invest in its leaders of the future by facilitating their knowledge, understanding and their development,” he concluded.

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