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The Open University and North Yorkshire Police Partnership – delivering flexible and innovation police education

Working in partnership with The Open University (the OU), North Yorkshire Police (NYP) is building a modern, skilled and diverse workforce. For several years, the OU and NYP have co-designed and co-delivered flexible, innovative, blended learning programmes that meet the needs of a modern policing workforce, the needs of NYP and the needs of the local community.

When the College of Policing introduced new routes into policing under the Policy Education and Qualification Framework (PEQF) in 2020, the OU and NYP collaborated on the creation of two of the three new routes - the Police Constable Degree Apprenticeship (PCDA) and Degree Holder Entry programmes. Both of those programmes have been a huge success for NYP, with over 200 recruits so far. Two more programmes have since been added to the portfolio - the Special Constable Learning Programme and Police Community Support Officer Apprenticeship.

A rich heritage

For over 50 years, the OU has delivered distance learning qualifications to part-time and professional students nationally and has become a key public sector partner to NHS Trusts, local authorities and government departments.

Against this backdrop, the OU made a strategic investment in the developing the Department of Policing involving these police education offers for practitioners. A unique aspect of the Department, is the Centre for Policing Research and Learning, a collaborative police-academic partnership involving twenty-two police services in the UK. The Centre undertakes groundbreaking research on contemporary policing issues by the multidisciplinary team of academics at the OU. The knowledge from the Centre’s research findings feed into practice in many ways, one of which is through the curriculum offered to police officers and members of police staff at NYP. 

The challenge in North Yorkshire

NYP is the largest geographic police force in England and Wales. Serving a diverse mix of people in both rural and urban communities, it has to respond to a wide range of incidents that are becoming increasingly complex in nature. It needs a diverse and highly skilled workforce with the knowledge, skills and behaviours to meet the demands of twenty-first century policing.

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.

Lisa Winward
Former Chief Constable, North Yorkshire Police

How the learning works

The learning is a mix of work-based and academic modules. The OU largely delivers the academic and legal content through its Virtual Learning Environment, while NYP delivers the practical work-based knowledge and its application through its trainers. This collaborative approach draws on the key strengths and expertise of both partners.

Fiaz joined the PCDA programme in 2020. Previously a bar manager, he wanted a change of career. His experience was that the partnership model works really well.

The learning is engaging and interactive. It is also flexible, to accommodate the professional and personal demands of the student officers, who are required to combine full-time work with their degree-level studies. Lee Partridge, former Professional Development Unit lead at NYP, says the flexible nature of OU study means that students get the support they need, when they need it.

“The Open University provides great flexibility. It’s unparalleled in my view, when it comes to the service that they deliver. And the student to tutor ratio is outstanding.”

The amount of support a student gets when they work with The Open University is beyond comparison. Our students have practice tutors and they’ve got academic tutors who help and support them all the time.

Catherine Convery-Brown
Learning and Development Manager, North Yorkshire Police

Uncovering hidden talent

Through the four new routes, NYP has accessed a diverse pool of talent, including more women and people with dyslexia, dyspraxia and autism. Every individual is offered a high level of personalised support. For example, Rich, currently on the PCDA, discovered early on in his learning that he has dyslexia. The OU guided him through the assessment process and is now helping him adapt his learning so that he can achieve his ambitions. “I left school without GCSEs and not in my wildest dreams did I think I would ever complete a degree.”

Chris embarked on the special constable training last year. A self-employed electrician he has always wanted to work for the police and this voluntary role has enabled him to do that. The ability to organise his learning around his other commitments has really worked for him.

Aleisha has also wanted to join the police force for many years, but due to work and family commitments have only recently been able to pursue her dreams. Aleisha has graduated from the PDCA programme.

Developing critical thinkers

Jennifer Norman, Head of Policing at the OU, says the new, Level 6 programmes are not only helping people such as Fiaz, Rich and Aleisha realise their career ambitions, but also to help them develop into critical thinkers, equipped with the knowledge and skills to act autonomously and solve complex problems.

“Officers who have engaged in degree level education often have an increased sense of professionalism, an increased sense of legitimacy. Their enhanced critical thinking skills can be utilised in their decision-making at work. They feel their decision making is better informed as a result.”

Through the NYP/OU partnership, many more officers will follow the path of these individuals into policing roles.  

Find out more about policing at The Open University:

Find out more about our Police Constable Degree ApprenticeshipThe Department of Policing at The Open University Contact us to know more about our policing programmes Learn more about the graduation of the first two cohorts

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