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Learning for assessments not skills is over, chiefs told

Training to pass tests rather than develop skills is holding forces back, experts have warned.
Published - 24/02/2021 By - Chris Smith

Face to face formal learning aimed at passing assessments is rapidly becoming obsolete due to COVID-19 and new approaches to CPD, the Police Foundation’s annual conference was told.

The conference heard a rapid increase in training and development will be needed by forces because 40% of people in the service have less than five years’ experience.

Different approaches to training and learning will become the new normal after the lockdown, delegates were told, with a greater use of on-the-job learning and new teaching techniques.

Peter Ward, Head of Learning and Development at Leicestershire Police, said part of the shift will include giving staff greater autonomy with their CPD to make greater use of the changes to training offered by the College of Policing.

He said: “I think we need to empower people to take control of their own development. I think we’ve got a fantastic opportunity to deliver autonomous learning in the workforce. There’s still a place for the classroom but I’d love to see some more hubs that link up through the College of Policing.”

Andy Lancaster, Head of Learning and Development Content at the CIPD, revealed that 84% of training had been delivered digitally during the past year and only 5% of training leads expected to go back to traditional learning.

“It’s a huge change that’s really profound. Organisational training has changed; there’s no way back. The opportunities are huge if you embrace new methods of learning.”

But he warned senior leaders have a very narrow view of learning, based on how they were taught.

The big shift is towards learning ‘in the moment’ during the flow of work and influenced by need.

“It’s not about big slugs of knowledge; it’s about supporting people to be brilliant about what they do,” he said.

Changes in learning follow a significant change in approach by the Independent Office for Police Conduct which has reformed to encourage reflective learning earlier for officers following incidents rather than sanctions.

It’s an issue that has also been repeatedly highlighted by HM Inspectorate which wants to see best practice being shared across forces.

Robin Merrett, Head of Operational Oversight at the Mayor's Office for Policing and Crime (MOPAC), said learning and development had to change because other comparable public sector roles – nursing and paramedics – had already professionalised development to degree level.

He added professional development needed to improve to enable officers to deal with an increasingly demanding job and help forces offer a transformational service. It will be critical to retaining the new intake of recruits.

“They have different career aspirations; they may not have the long-term career aspirations that the Service did in the past,” he said.

That meant having the right people with the right skills to build capability as well as capacity.

“You need that if you are to deliver the right outcomes for the organisation. If Learning and Development aren’t at the table talking about capability that will deliver the outcomes for your community, you are disadvantaging your organisation,” Mr Merrett said.  

A new development is blended learning which uses several different training techniques to increase skills including reflective diaries, simulators and role playing.

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