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Chief Constable Bill Skelly says PEQF concerns remain

Lincolnshire’s Chief Constable, Bill Skelly, said his objections to the Police Education Qualification Framework (PEQF) had been “validated” by the College of Policing’s report into the new entry route.

CC Skelly, a long-time critic of PEQF who has taken two judicial reviews against the college, said the concerns he raised in the legal challenges remained.

The challenges have been dismissed, in his words, on a technicality. Part of the basis for concern was that officers would have to be removed from duties for study time - abstraction - which would leave the force short of officers at a time when under-staffing is still an issue. 

He has since written to both the Home Secretary and the Shadow Home Secretary asking them not to lay before parliament regulations to mandate change to the entry route.

CC Skelly said: “The reasons why I was concerned about this being mandated without any proper long term evaluation was, number one, abstraction rates."

Lincolnshire commissioned its own research into potential abstraction rates which are in reality higher than the force’s study predicted (up to 47 per cent in year one of PCDA, according to the college’s report).

He also voiced concerns around turnover, diversity, cost, the implications to the existing workforce, and the knock on effect that that would have for other considerations that are part of workforce reform.

“Everything I've said still stands,” he said.

Police Oracle last week saw the report which shows figures from 2016 to 2019 of early force delivery of the Police Constable Degree Apprenticeship (PCDA) and the Degree-Holder-Entry Programme (DEHP).

The report said costs were as predicted and are incomparable to the IPLDP. They are laid out as an average first-year direct cost of £2,342 per officer for PCDA for English forces, not taking into account the £2,970 got back from apprenticeship levy funding, and £4,963 per officer for PCDA and DHEP for Welsh forces. Welsh forces do not receive the levy funding, and therefore pay a lesser amount to the HEI.  

Indirect cost for all forces for PCDA and DHEP is £6,426 per officer.  

CC Skelly said: “They (the college) originally said it would be cost saving back in back in the day when it was put forward. Then it became it will be cost neutral, and for the first time they've admitted that it's actually going to cost forces more cash. This isn't about hidden costs. This is a cash cost.”

He also said there was no guarantee the government would continue to subsidise a proportion of the fees or that the apprenticeship levy would continue to recognise the PCDA as eligible for funding and, if this came to be the case, it would be forces picking up the bill.

So far, 27 forces have taken the college’s offer of an extension until June 2020, and a further 19 have taken the one until June 2021. The original deadline was December 2019.

CC Skelly said that forces had found it “incredibly difficult” to procure PCDA programmes from higher education institutions.

He said forces then found that actually being able to bring in the numbers that government are expecting and paying for them as a result of uplift “has clashed with their ability to front load a degree programme”.

“I am aware that large forces with considerable recruitment plans over the coming three years are not able to meet the timelines of a PCDA or PEQF only route,” he said.

The College were unable to say which forces were currently running under both the old Initial Police Learning and Development Programme (IPLDP) alongside PEQF.

Data from the report shows a higher proportion of under 25s were entering under the scheme, which CC Skelly said indicated there were less recruits from older groups who could be bringing previous professional backgrounds and experiences.

“In my view the core values of policing in this country are the ability to relate to the people that you are policing. And that is one of the core things that is at risk here. So in some ways I'm pleased by the report because it continues to demonstrate that everything I've been saying is right and that government should absolutely be pausing in their view that it should be mandated.”

“As far as I'm concerned this prompts the kind of review that I've been asking for. You cannot proceed with this until you are sure it's a better option. And at the moment, the evidence would suggest not.”

CC Skelly himself holds a Diploma in criminology from Cambridge, and studied maths and physics at Edinburgh where he went on to get an MBA.

“We're not saying that you can't be a good cop and have a degree,” he said. “What we are saying is that it's not required, it's not necessary. One does not make you the other.”

CC Skelly said the team at Lincolnshire were “totally committed to this because we feel that it's so important. It's just such a fundamental thing to policing that the argument needs to go on, the discussion still needs to be had.

He said he hoped whoever succeeded him would carry on with the “pushback” and the “holding to account”.

A College of Policing spokesman said: ‘’The new entry routes into policing are being introduced by growing number of forces across England and Wales, with positive feedback about the content and quality of the training from new officers and forces.’’

“They continue to receive widespread support from chief constables and more than half of all forces have already implemented at least one of the routes, with more to follow over the coming months.

“All forces, aside from Lincolnshire, have committed to implementing the new training, which will ensure new officers meet the challenges of the job and that standards are consistent across forces.

“The introduction of the new routes marks a generational change for recruitment into, and education within, policing. We are supporting forces to achieve the maximum benefit from their commitment to deliver modern fit-for-purpose training for their frontline officers, including successfully managing levels of protected learning time to minimise any impact on operational policing.

“We want every officer to be properly prepared and recognised for the difficult job they do every day."

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