What is a level 5 qualification?

There are 9 qualification levels in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, and they all represent higher education (HE) qualifications. To join the Probation Officer training programme, you’ll need a level 5 qualification in one of the following:

  • A diploma of higher education (DipHE)
  • A foundation degree
  • A higher national diploma (HND)
  • A level 5 award
  • A level 5 certificate
  • A level 5 diploma
  • A level 5 NVQ

What consultation was involved in the development of the qualification?

Key stakeholders including the National Probation Service (NPS), Community Rehabilitation Companies (CRCs), HMPPS, Skills for Justice, the Probation Institute, NAPO and Unison have been involved throughout, in the design of Community Justice Learning and the PQiP. The qualifications are underpinned by the new National Occupational Standards which have been designed following well represented national consultation across the Community Justice Sector.

I have studied some of the knowledge modules, does these mean I can complete the shorter PQiP?

In order to be eligible for the 15 month PQiP, you will need to have demonstrated learning in the following 4 areas, either within your Level 5 or above qualification, or through completion of the required knowledge modules:

  • Crime and Criminal Behaviour
  • Criminal Justice System
  • Penal Policy and Punishment of Offenders
  • Rehabilitation of Offenders

Successful candidates would need to have started their 3rd knowledge module in order to be eligible for the 15 month route. The 4th module will be funded as part of the PQiP and will need to be completed within the first 6 months of joining the programme.

If your qualification does not include any of these subject areas or you have completed less than 3 modules, this means that you are likely to be placed on the extended PQiP, the 21 month route.  The first 6 months will include studying the knowledge modules which will be funded by the NPS.

I don’t meet the eligibility criteria, what is my route to becoming a Probation Officer?

If you already know you don't yet meet the requirements to apply for the PQiP, there are a number of routes to beginning your career in criminal justice.

You can apply to become a Probation Services Officer (PSO). PSOs perform a similar role to fully qualified Probation Officers. The main difference is you won’t work with the highest risk offenders that Probation Officers work with so you don’t need a qualification to apply. All new PSOs undertake a comprehensive induction, including the Gateway to Practice training course and, a Level 3 Vocational Qualification in Probation Practice.

If you already have the required experience and a relevant Level 3 vocational qualification, you will have an opportunity to demonstrate your ability to study at a higher level by undertaking a short Level 4 study programme, otherwise known as an access route. If you complete this successfully, you will be able to enrol on a bespoke Level 5 distance learning course with one of the approved universities. This normally takes a year to complete. Successful completion of which will provide eligibility to apply for the PQiP training programme.

How much will the access routes cost for the Professional Qualification in Probation (PQiP) and what are the time-scales?

Costs and precise time-scales are available from the approved university providers below. Most required knowledge modules normally require about 200 hours study, the full Level 5 qualification is likely to take a year, and the Level 4 study is likely to be from three months. Your employer may sponsor some or all of this.

De Montfort University
Email: probation@dmu.ac.uk
Telephone: 0116 257 7700

Sheffield Hallam University
Email: gas@shu.ac.uk 
Telephone: 0114 225 2539

University of Portsmouth
Email: CJL@port.ac.uk
Telephone: 02392 843 984

Can I study the CJL Level 4 or Level 5 qualifications independently?

Yes, you can take the CJL qualifications in their own right. You do not need to be applying for the PQiP to undertake them.

How can someone gain relevant experience to apply for the PQiP and is there any weighting for different levels of experience?

Relevant experience can be gained from either working with offenders or other individuals exhibiting challenging behaviour and/or whose lives are in crisis. This can be gained in a variety of settings, both within and outside the Community Justice sector in either a paid or voluntary capacity. Relevant experience will be a factor in recruitment and selection but there will be no formal weighting system.

What does recruitment and selection to the PQiP include and when will the next intake be?

Recruitment to the PQiP is by a national recruitment campaign via a series of assessment stages, including a written application, an online test and an assessment centre.

There are usually two intakes per year, one in summer and one at the start of each year. The expected start date for each intake will be advertised when applications open. It is important that you are available to attend the initial 4-week induction and we therefore advise that you do not book time off during this period.

What will contracts of employment include?

PQiP learners in NPS are employed on permanent Probation Services Officer contracts and will be expected to undertake routine PSO tasks during the training programme. However, they will also be allocated some study time towards the required learning components.

I currently work in the NPS. Will I need to leave my current role if I am successful in gaining a place on the PQiP?

Staff working in the NPS who successfully apply for PQiP training will need to move from their current role into a role as a Probation Services Officer PQiP learner.

What happens if I fail the PQiP?

To qualify as a Probation Officer, you must pass both the vocational and the applied academic components of the PQiP. Learners who do not pass will either return to a previous PSO role within the organisation or may be asked to leave. This decision will be made by the relevant employer.

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