The Open University (the OU) has partnered with North Yorkshire Police (NYP) to collaboratively design and deliver the new Police Constable Degree Apprenticeship (PCDA) and Degree Holder Entry programmes. These programmes represent two of the three new routes into policing from 2020, introduced under the Police Education and Qualification Framework (PEQF) by the College of Policing.
The OU has made a strategic investment in the development of policing curriculum, building on our reputation of working collaboratively with the twenty-two police services in the UK that are members of our innovative Centre for Policing Research and Learning. These new policing programmes build on the OU’s fifty-year reputation of delivering distance learning qualifications to part-time and professional students nationally and to key social organisations, such as The National Health Service and the Civil Service.
NYP is the largest geographic police force in England and Wales. It serves a diverse mix of people in both rural and urban communities and must respond to a wide range of incidents that are becoming increasingly complex in nature. It needs a diverse and highly skilled workforce that has the knowledge, skills and behaviours to meet the demands of twenty-first century policing. Lisa Winward, Chief Constable at North Yorkshire Police, explains:
“It’s now quite challenging to attract people to join the police service because the traditional policing skills that we were looking for 25 years ago have changed very much in the modern era. We’re still very much a people based organisation but our officers also have to have the technical skills to do that very complex job.”
Given this challenge, the OU has been drawing upon its national networks and expertise in student recruitment to attract and recruit a diverse pool of applicants with NYP. Lee Partridge, Professional Development Unit Lead at the force, explains:
It’s really important that we attract different sectors of the community. The OU can reach out to sectors of the community that would not ordinarily consider a career in policing.Lee Partridge
Professional Development Unit Lead, North Yorkshire Police
Since June 2019, the OU and NYP have been working together to design and deliver a flexible and innovative programme that meets the needs of officers, NYP and the communities it serves. This collaborative partnership was united in its mission to design learning that is engaging, interactive, but also flexible enough to meet the professional and personal demands of the student officers, who are required to combine full-time work with their degree-level studies. Dr Matthew Jones, Director of Policing Organisation and Practice at the OU, believes that the blended learning solution that the OU provides is effective in meeting the competing demands of modern policing:
“OU blended learning combines innovative, engaging and quality online learning with personalised tuition, one to one, to ensure that students are successful in their studies. Our model allows North Yorkshire Police recruits to study flexibly – at a pace, location and time that meets their professional and personal demands. As part of the programme, the OU also offers face-to-face day schools where students come together to explore ideas and concepts around their learning and apply what they have learnt to their professional practice”.
A unique aspect of the programmes is that they are co-delivered by both NYP and the OU. The OU largely delivers the academic and legal content, while NYP delivers the practical work-based knowledge and its application. This allows each partner to deliver to their key strengths and expertise. Andrew McGregor-Taylor, Police Constable Degree Apprenticeship Implementation Manager at NYP, says going digital and partnering up with the OU has really helped the force deliver on its aims:
“Because of the nature and geography of North Yorkshire Police we are moving to a more digital way of delivering training.The Open University’s background of online learning, its vast knowledge and how they were set up originally to ensure anybody could get a degree was a real attraction for us.”
Despite the ongoing pandemic, the flexible blended learning model underpinning OU programmes and the existing digital competencies of both organisations, ensured that the programme was delivered without disruption and went live on schedule. The first cohort of new student police officers joined the PCDA in July 2020.
As the degree-awarding institution, the OU offers four start dates for each of the programmes each year ensuring a healthy stream of new officers into the NYP ranks. Students initiate their studies with a preliminary phase of work-based learning. This learning includes foundation areas of professional police practice, delivered using the OU’s Virtual Learning Environment, and more practical learning, delivered by NYP trainers.
Twenty-three-year-old Fiaz Shahpal joined the first cohort of our PCDA programme. Prior to joining NYP, he was a manager in a bar and wanted a change of career. Fiaz applied to join NYP to make a positive contribution to his local community. He thinks the partnership model works really well, with NYP delivering practical content, such as officer safety training and search training, and the OU delivering academic content, such as the history of the police and code of ethics:
“They come together to build a complete policing education experience. My family is really proud that I’m giving back to the community and I’m engaging in something that I enjoy. The experience has been amazing.”
Ruth Daley is also an Apprentice Police Constable at NYP. The thirty-four-year-old mother of two formerly worked in Human Resources for a third sector organisation and had always wanted to work for the police. She is delighted to have the opportunity to follow her dream and thinks the course has set her up really well to hit the ground running:
“Policing is actually something I’ve always wanted to do. What’s worked well about the apprenticeship is the fact that it’s setting you up ready to go out onto the streets and do the job.”
Through the NYP/OU partnership, many more officers will follow the path of Fiaz and Ruth into policing roles, helping enhance the service delivered by NYP to its communities.
NYP has been impressed by the work of the OU and is seeking ways to further strengthen the partnership. It wants to draw on the OU’s research and knowledge exchange expertise and exploring learning that can be delivered to other areas of its workforce. Catherine Convery-Brown, Lead Trainer, Police Constable Degree Apprenticeship, at NYP, thinks it is very important for the force to move towards a more flexible way of training to meet the demands of police work:
“The learners have really engaged with the Open University material. The virtual learning environment has been fantastic for them; to be able to dip in and out when they need to, and refer back to again and again.”
If you would like to know more about our policing programmes, please contact Dr Matthew Jones – Matthew.Jones@open.ac.uk