In Focus: George Couch talks about the changes to officer promotions

Police officers looking for promotion will undergo new programme

​George Couch works for the College and is responsible for implementing the National Police Promotion Framework across England and Wales. Here he tells officers what they can expect and talks about some common misconceptions about the changes.

Changes to police regulations will see the introduction of a new programme for officers seeking promotion across England and Wales.

Officers who want to be promoted from constable to sergeant, or sergeant to inspector, will now undergo the National Police Promotion Framework (NPPF). Currently officers sit two exams, called OSPRE® I and OSPRE® II, before becoming eligible for promotion.
I suppose the first question is ‘why change?’

The simple answer is that in the past, officers who had completed OSPRE® I and II were only ever qualified for promotion but there was always a requirement for local selection before officers were actually promoted.

This led to far more officers being qualified than could be promoted, officers had no certainty on their career development and skills were lost whilst waiting for promotion. Therefore there was a need to have a system whereby officers could have some certainty as to their future, be assessed against a common set of standards as part of the role whilst allowing forces to select the best candidates.

What is NPPF?
It is a complete framework comprising of four consecutive steps.
This is an important difference in that officers must complete a step before proceeding to the next. A step cannot be skipped and timescales are attached to each step.

Step One - the validity criteria.
Most officers will meet the criteria but the important issue is that officers must be assessed in their PDR or force appraisal process as being competent in the current role.

Step Two - the legal knowledge exam.
This is exactly the same process as OSPRE® Part I and the five year validity period remains in effect. Officers have five years from the date they took the examination to be selected at Step Three.

Step Three - the local selection process.
The process is open to all candidates who are within the NPPF Step Two validity periods and open to all candidates who are qualified having completed OSPRE I and II.
Forces will design the Step Three process according to their own needs but it will be based on evidence of competence to perform at the next rank.
Staff associations are actively encouraged to participate in the design of the local selection process as this will provide reassurance to candidates that the process is both ethical and transparent.

Step Four - where successful candidates are given temporary promotion and undertake the work based assessment.
Candidates will work with an assessor and their line manager in completing the National Occupational Standards modules.
Candidates will have 12 months to complete the modules but many will complete it in less.

However, Step Four should be viewed as a two-part process taken concurrently.
The first part is the National Occupational Standards modules as described above but the second is performance in the rank over the full 12 months.

The performance is assessed through the force appraisal process. Providing a candidate passes both parts, the temporary promotion will be made substantive.

Other promotion routes such as the High Potential Development Scheme (HPDS) or Fast Track Constable to Inspector have a slightly different approach to NPPF but all candidates will undergo the legal knowledge exam and work based assessment.
Specific guidance will be issued by us to candidates. 

What if I have completed OSPRE® I and II?
Officers who have qualified at OSPRE® I and II and who have been selected at Step Three will be substantively promoted as they have already completed the promotion process.

It is a decision for chief officers, but the College strongly recommends these officers also undertake the work based assessment as part of the probationary period or for Inspectors, a development programme.
Experience from candidates within the trial forces shows that the structured programme supports officers as they develop the necessary skills relevant to the rank.

Is NPPF just more bureaucracy?
A complaint of NPPF is the bureaucracy and need to have large portfolios of evidence. This is a common observation but one that’s not based in truth.
Any assessment process needs evidence but in the case of NPPF, the evidence comes from what is already in existence i.e. what has been created in the course of a normal working day.

There is no need to transpose into a new document. The original should be referenced and discussed.
The use of technology, both audio and visual is accepted and assessors are encouraged to use it as much as possible. 

Which system provides a better supervisor?
This is almost impossible to answer as you are not measuring like with like.
The OSPRE® process was successful for more than 25 years producing some highly successful line managers, but from personal experience the downside was that the first week, month or even year rarely ran co-proximate with development in the new rank.

Learning was sometimes dependent on who you had as a mentor and of course learning could incorporate bad habits as well as good.

With NPPF and in particular Step Four, officers are learning and being assessed in the right skills as they undertake the role.

Feedback from officers, including those who took OSPRE at Sergeant and NPPF at inspector, has shown that the programme is hard to complete but having completed it, officers felt more confident in undertaking their role.

When updates arise, information on the NPPF will be hosted on a dedicated page on our website

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