Member of the subject matter expert panel for exercise design

What is exercise design?

Exercise design is the process used by the College of Policing to develop the exercises used at senior selection assessment centres: Fast Track, Direct Entry (inspectors), Direct Entry (superintendents), Senior Leaders Development Centre, and the Assessment Centres and Assessment Processes for the Strategic Command Course (Senior PNAC and the Senior Police Staff Assessment Process for the SCC). It is a rigorous cycle with several stages, refining the exercises to ensure they are realistic, fair, reflect modern policing challenges and are assessing the candidate at the appropriate level. 

The final exercises are used at a national assessment centre, where the selected candidates will then join a relevant training programme. For more information on the Fast Track and Direct Entry programmes, the Strategic Command Course and the assessment centres, please see the links at the end.

Your role as a subject matter expert in exercise design

The design and development of exercises is shaped by a panel of senior leaders who provide valuable guidance as subject matter experts. You will also draw on your special skills and knowledge within your area of work as a senior leader to help develop and progress the exercises. Our panel members ensure that the abilities and skills successful candidates are expected to demonstrate come from individuals already performing the role well and understand the challenges it presents. Therefore, to ensure authenticity and depth, we are keen to invite senior leaders from across the police service to work closely with our exercise design team. As a successful leader, your valuable insights will ultimately identify future leaders in policing.

How will it benefit the development of my leadership skills?

  • Opportunity to demonstrate your expertise and help shape the exercises used to develop and identify the future leaders you may end up working closely with.
  • You will be able to include experiences from your career to ensure that the exercise content reflects current and modern policing challenges.
  • You will be able to network with a diverse set of people, both from within and outside of policing, broaden your professional contacts and learn from those in similar and different positions.
  • Opportunity to complete assessment centre exercises which are structured similarly to future assessment processes you may attend, meaning you will benefit from a realistic preview of the candidate experience.

“This was a great opportunity to test myself whilst helping shape this process, which is an important element of identifying future leaders in the service. The experience was demanding as you would expect, but also very positive. I would recommend anyone in a leadership role considering supporting the college in this work” - Detective Chief Superintendent from Cleveland Police.

What does the exercise design cycle look like?

The diagram at the top of this page shows the stages of the exercise design cycle that our subject matter experts will be involved in to facilitate the development of the exercises for the senior selection assessment centres.

Gathering information

This stage is to help build an understanding of the current challenges facing senior leaders and the types of projects, activities and incidents they regularly deal with. These insights form the basis of the exercises designed. To gain this understanding, members of the senior selection team will either interview or shadow senior leaders in their roles.

  • Shadowing: A member of the senior selection team will follow you in your activities on a specified date. The day chosen can be at your convenience (within the time window for this whole stage). However, it is usually most helpful to shadow on days when there are a number of different activities going on. It will provide insight into the daily positives and challenges faced, giving you the opportunity to reflect on your role and the choices you make by explaining them to someone who wants to learn.
  • Critical scenario interview: These are telephone interviews that ask about particular scenarios you have experienced. The interview will be semi-structured and explore areas which will help build an insight into the skills and abilities required in policing, and the type of approach which should be used. The interviews can be scheduled at a time that suits you within the time window for the whole stage.

In the current design cycle, the window for this stage is from 11 April until 31 May 2019.

Group discussion

This stage is a consultation with the relevant senior leaders in order to gain their feedback on the initial drafts of the exercises. These drafts will be early stages in the exercise development, and are based purely on the ideas gathered in the previous stage. As such, they will still need work to ensure they are appropriately realistic and challenging.

The senior selection team will be keen to get senior leaders' insights to establish how to make the exercise draft appropriately challenging, realistic and gain an understanding of how candidates are expected to approach the exercises. These discussions will run on several dates across northern and southern locations.

In the current design cycle, the dates and locations for this stage are as follows:

  • 6th September, Ryton
  • 12th September, London
  • 16th September, Harrogate

Testing the exercises

This stage is to test that the exercises work effectively and identify what behaviours or potential responses we might expect to see from candidates.

We achieve this by piloting the exercises on current target role holders. It gives senior leaders the opportunity to come and do the exercises as if they were a candidate. All feedback and observations allow the senior selection team to fine-tune the exercises if necessary.

This event will run across several dates and we would like to pilot the exercises with a variety of senior leaders. If you would like to get involved, you can indicate your availability for one or more dates (or even a half-day).

In the current design cycle there will be two pilots running. Dates and locations are as follows:  

  • Pilot 1: 15 - 17 October 2019 (location Manchester)
  • Pilot 2: 4 - 5 November 2019 (location Ryton)

How can you get involved?

Each senior selection product assesses candidates for different senior positions. Therefore, it is necessary that individuals' input at each design event targets the appropriate product and reflects their level of experience. We welcome anyone who has relevant experience as a senior leader. Please see the below criteria:

  • Fast Track and Direct Entry (inspector) design events: you must be a substantive superintendent or chief superintendent.
  • Direct Entry (superintendent) design events: you must be a substantive assistant chief officer, assistant chief constable or commander.
  • Assessment Process for the Strategic Command Course design events: you must be a substantive assistant chief officer, assistant chief constable or commander.

Increasing diversity is a current challenge in policing. Therefore, it is important that we have individuals from a wide range of professional specialisms and backgrounds engaging in our design events. This will ensure that the valuable input we receive has come from a representative group of people, reducing the chance that the exercises will disadvantage particular groups of candidates.

We look to have a diverse group of volunteers engage in our events all year round, so if you can't make an event please check our dates for other events you could bring your expertise to. To express and register your interest in the design events, please contact the senior selection inbox at

What other opportunities are available to help develop my leadership skills?

Other relevant links:

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