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West Midlands Police Federation

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New recruits adapt to initial training pandemic style

23 July 2020

One of the Force’s new recruits has explained the frustrations of trying to get to grips with his initial training through online learning in his bedroom rather than in a classroom with the rest of his cohort.

George McDonnell started his Police Constable Degree Apprenticeship (PCDA) training, along with 33 fellow new joiners, on 31 March, just a week after the country went into lockdown.
So, instead of spending three months at Tally Ho for face to face training, George (21) was confined to the bedroom of his parents’ home, dialling into online lectures and Powerpoint presentations from around 8am to 4pm each day.

“I really appreciate that due to the lockdown restrictions we couldn’t follow the usual training programme,” says George, who is the son of our full-time official George McDonnell, “The learning and development department has done its utmost to adapt the training so that we can abide by the rules but still cover all areas of our course.

“But it has been tough trying to stay focussed while listening to the sessions through your computer and, while we have the facility to use a chat function during the training sessions, that doesn’t really create many opportunities for interaction in the way that you would engage in a classroom situation.

“If I was in a classroom and the trainer said something I didn’t understand I would put my hand up and ask for a further explanation; that’s just the way I would learn and I am sure others would similarly put questions to the trainer to develop their understanding.

“But you just don’t do that with the online learning,” George explains, “You are worried that you are interrupting the session for others, or that they will think you are always asking questions and delaying the end of the session. You don’t get to read people’s body language or pick up on their mannerisms.”

Despite the restrictions, George’s group of new recruits have managed to meet for their personal safety training at Tally Ho and at the sports academy at Tipton.

The cohort of 34 were split into two groups of 17 with each group undergoing five days of training one week followed by a further session of two days and then a further three days.
“I really enjoyed this training. I felt like we all gelled as a group and this gave us a real taster of what the training would have been like in a pre-coronavirus world,” he said.

George began the next stage of his three-year training with a placement at Bournville starting on 18 June. He and his fellow recruits will be rotated around various roles and, if successful, will be awarded a degree in policing practice at the end of their three years of training.

“I am looking forward to all aspects of my ongoing training and to just being part of a team after feeling quite isolated from everyone for the last three months. At the moment, I am thinking that I would like to work towards becoming a firearms officer but, of course, you are never sure what roles you are going to be most suited to or will enjoy until you have experienced the job first-hand,” he explained.

George is following in the footsteps of his Dad, also George, who has more than 20 years’ service for the Force under his belt and is now the conduct lead for West Midlands Police Federation.

“I have wanted to join the police from a very early age,” says George, “I have seen how rewarding it has been for my Dad. I remember him coming into my primary school with his team to talk about policing and even then I wanted to become a police officer.”

While George Senior didn’t try to talk his son out of joining the police, he was like any parent, concerned about the dangers he could face and did for a time try to persuade him to be a teacher instead.

After A-levels, George embarked on a law degree but after a year decided to apply for the PCDA, not thinking for one minute that he would end up starting his training at the height of a pandemic.

“I must admit the online training has been frustrating at times and it is easy to get distracted but the trainers have all been doing the best they can to keep us engaged in what has been such a challenging time for everyone involved,” says George.

“Now I am just looking forward to getting my foot in the door of the police station and getting started. I am a bit apprehensive, of course, I know there is a lot to learn and that so much of it will be done through learning on the job, watching others, seeing how things are done. I can’t wait to get on with my job.”


September 2020