How has the Probation Qualification Framework changed?

Delivery of the current Probation Qualifications Framework ended with the final PQF cohort in 2016 and Her Majesty’s Prison and Probation Service has replaced this with Community Justice Learning (CJL). The first phase of Community Justice Learning introduces a new qualification for Probation Officers and more flexible, inclusive access routes to this. The second phase is developing new qualifications for Probation Service Officers and Probation Case Administrators, along with a Community Justice Matrix which identifies bridges and ladders to career development across the sector.

What is the new Probation Officer qualification?

The qualification for Probation Officers is the Professional Qualification in Probation (PQiP). This continues to be work-based and comprises an integrated programme of applied academic learning and practice skills development, leading to a qualification at Honours Degree level 6. The skills components are assessed at work and lead to the award of a level 5 vocational qualification in Probation Practice. During the qualification, learners gain the skills and knowledge to:

  • assess the risk of offenders, including those who present a high risk of serious harm to others;
  • protect the public and manage risk of harm;
  • create an enabling environment conducive to change;
  • demonstrate professional ethics and values;
  • rehabilitate, resettle offenders and promote desistance from offending;
  • prepare reports;
  • achieve the above with specific groups including violent and sexual offenders.

How long will it take to complete the new Probation Officer qualification, the Professional Qualification in Probation (PQiP)?

The length of the Probation Officer training programme leading to the PQiP is 15 months.

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. The qualification is underpinned by the new National Occupational Standards which have been designed following well represented national consultation across the Community Justice Sector. Further consultation on the Probation Service Officers' and Probation Case Administrators' qualifications will occur prior to April 2017.

What are the requirements to apply for the training to become a Probation Officer and how can I obtain them?

To be eligible to apply for the PQiP training programme, you must be able to demonstrate that you have the following:

1. Practice experience of either working with offenders or with other individuals exhibiting challenging behaviour and/or whose lives are in crisis, and
2. A degree or other recognised qualification at level 5 or above and
3. Prior knowledge and understanding in four required knowledge modules:

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

If your existing qualification covers three out of the four modules you may be able to apply and complete the outstanding module while undertaking the PQiP training. These modules are available by distance learning and can be purchased direct from our HMPPS contracted universities.

If you think you meet the entry requirements your next step is to obtain verification by the Gateway Assessment Service which will provide you with the unique GAS ID Number you need to apply.

If you do not yet have a level 5 qualification, but do have a relevant vocational qualification at level 3 or above, Community Justice Learning introduces new opportunities for you to obtain the entry requirements above.

What do QCF/RQF levels refer to and what would examples of a level 5 or above qualification be?

Within Community Justice Learning all academic and vocational qualifications are assigned a level, which refers to both the previous Qualifications and Credit Framework (QCF) and the new Regulated Qualifications Framework (RQF). Level 4 qualifications are broadly similar to the first year of an undergraduate degree programme, such as Higher National Certificates, Certificates of Higher Education and level 4 Vocational Qualifications. Level 5 qualifications include Higher National Diplomas, Foundation Degrees, Diplomas of Higher Education, Level 5 Vocational Qualifications and Higher Apprenticeships. Level 6 qualifications include Honour Degrees, Graduate Certificates and Graduate Diplomas.

How will I know whether my existing qualifications meet the requirements to apply for the PQiP and what else do I need to do?

Contact one of the HMPPS approved university providers and go through the Gateway Assessment Service (GAS) which will verify this or identify gaps. If you meet the requirements, you will be issued with a unique reference number, which you will need to apply for the PQiP. They will be able to advise you of next steps and their associated fees.

If you already know you don't yet meet the requirements to apply for the PQiP, you can apply for an access route which will include the GAS. Distance learning access routes are available at level 4 for those with a relevant level 3 qualification; or at level 5 (120 credits) for those with a relevant 120 credit level 4 qualification; or required knowledge module(s) for those with a degree or level 5 qualification which does not yet cover all required knowledge modules.

I do not have a degree, but do have a relevant level 3 vocational qualification, the VQ3 Diploma in Probation Practice. Will Community Justice Learning offer me a pathway towards qualifying as a Probation Officer?

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 enroll 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 and what are the time-scales?

Costs and precise time-scales are available from the approved university providers. 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.

Can I study the CJL Level 4 or Level 5 qualifications as part of my continuous professional development?

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 either from work with offenders or with 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 and an assessment centre. Community Rehabilitation Companies (CRCs) have the option to arrange their own recruitment process. Enrolment to the access modules occurs via the contracted universities and is available now.

There are usually two intakes per year, one in late spring and one in the autumn. The expected start date for each intake will be advertised when applications open.

Is recruitment and selection to the PQiP fair?

NPS recruitment will be in accordance with the Civil Service Code. In CRCs, recruitment will be subject to their policies and procedures. The entry requirements will be the same for the NPS and the CRCs.

How many places will there be on the PQiP?

This will be determined for each intake by local workforce planning, which is currently in progress across NPS and CRCs.

What will contracts of employment include?

CJL learners in NPS are employed on Probation Service 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. CRCs apply their own contracts.

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 Service Officer PQiP learner.

What happens if someone fails 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.

Where can I find further information on how to train to be a Probation Officer and new learning opportunities available under Community Justice Learning?

Information on all aspects of Community Justice Learning is available on this website. A helpful "Decision Tree" is included on the website which identifies the options available to those with a range of existing qualifications and experience. Further information about recruitment, assessment of your existing qualifications and time-scales can also be found on the website.

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