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What is it like to be a Practice Tutor at the OU?

The Policing Organisation and Practice team regularly recruit for Practice Tutors for the Police Constable Degree Apprenticeship (PCDA) course. The role requires candidates to have recent policing operational experience. Here Abigail Salter tells us what it’s like to be a Practice Tutor… 

"I’m Abigail and I’m a Practice Tutor at the Open University on the Police Constable Degree Apprenticeship (PCDA). I have a background in operational policing having worked for the Metropolitan Police and Hertfordshire Constabulary, completing approximately 19 years of service. I have a Masters in Risk, Crisis and Disaster Management and experience in working within Policing academia.

As a Practice Tutor, I have 19 students who are all North Yorkshire Police recruits and I manage the role in addition to a full-time job. This is quite a large group, with the normal size of a cohort being 14-16 students. Some weeks are busier than others but on average, it’s approximately 7hrs per week which is very manageable alongside my full-time role.

I first met the students during the induction week at the start of their apprenticeship. During the restrictions of COVID-19, my interaction with the students has all been online so far. In the first few weeks of the apprenticeship, I set up one to one online meetings with each student to get to know them, talk about my role and how I could support them and agree individual learning aims which were also formally recorded within their electronic portfolio. The support I offer the students is centred around the work-based learning online modules: where they are applying their learning to actual policing, gathering their evidence for Independent Patrol Status (IPS) and Full Operational Competency (FOC), and understanding what else they need to do to develop as a student officer. The module material is delivered between an online (OU) module website that they study individually from home and face to face training by NYP. I have found that the main queries from students so far have been around assessment questions and study skills support.

One of my responsibilities is providing my students with guidance around how to approach their assessment questions. An example of this is when I delivered an online briefing session where I broke down the question and introduced models to assist them in reflective writing. I also mark each of their assessments and provide feedback, getting 15 workings days (COVID-timescale, normally it’s 10 working days) to return the papers. I am well supported by both the team of academics at the OU who wrote the teaching materials, by my OU line manager and by the other practice tutors on the programme. For example, I receive a briefing from them before each assessment so that I am fully aware what I need to brief my students and guidance through the marking criteria.

A big part of the role is ensuring all the requirements of the apprenticeship are undertaken and this is partly done through quarterly review meetings: I meet with each student every three months and I am with the same cohort of students for the entire three years of the apprenticeship. This makes the role extremely rewarding where I support and assess the police apprentices throughout and see them achieve both a degree and have an exciting career at the end of the program. I have experienced a lot of motivation and passion within my students, and all are extremely keen to learn and be successful police officers. Coming from a Detective background in investigations, I have found that my own experience helps the students put theory into practice and also understand the pressures, demand, and often the impact policing can bring into personal lives. The role also sees me coach students in managing their work and study time to their advantage and also help to build confidence in those that need more reassurance." Abigail Salter

Please click here to view our current Practice Tutor vacancy. If you would like any further information or to find out how to apply please contact Ahmed Kadry.