Special constable learning programme

In 2019 a new National Special Constabulary Strategy was finalised. This sets out how police forces in England and Wales can use special constables to support their frontline service to the public.

The completion of the strategy enabled the College of Policing to develop a new learning programme for special constables. This learning programme underpins the new strategy and is based on the same learning that is provided for regular police constables.

The SCLP has five phases, as set out below.

Phase one learning

The initial learning phase will provide the theoretical knowledge and understanding of practical skills and behaviour needed for a new special constable to conduct a safe and lawful accompanied patrol. The new special constable will be assessed appropriately before they can go out on patrol with an experienced officer, so that they can gain practical experience of what they have been learning. During this phase, they will also receive personal safety training.

Accompanied Patrol Status

On successful completion of phase one learning (and personal safety training), the special constable operates at Accompanied Patrol Status. Accompanied patrol is the stage of professional development at which the special constable goes out on patrol with an experienced officer. During this time, they will be required to demonstrate basic operational skills of the special constable role in a safe and lawful manner.

At the beginning of this phase, we would expect the learner to mostly observe real incidents as their experienced colleagues handle them. As they gain more exposure and confidence, we would then expect that they would begin to apply and demonstrate basic policing skills from phase one learning under direct observation.

Directed Patrol Status 

While the new special constable is on accompanied patrol they will have the opportunity to demonstrate competence in their role. They will be expected to collect evidence of their competence in an operational competence portfolio. Their evidence will be assessed by a tutor, to determine whether they can carry out their role with a degree of independence, safely and lawfully under supervision. When they have gathered evidence to show competence against all the relevant assessment criteria, they will reach Directed Patrol Status (DPS), which is unique to the Special Constabulary.

While DPS indicates an assessed level of competence, this does not equip the special constabulary to be fully independent. special constables who have achieved DPS should only be deployed in a supervised or managed environment, either on their own or as part of a team.

We estimate that, on average, an special constable can achieve DPS in 18 to 24 months. A special constable can remain at DPS level or they can choose to progress to the next phase.

Phase two learning

During this phase, special constables revisit core policing principles and can undertake more advanced learning in one or more of the five areas of policing practice:

  • Response policing.
  • Policing communities.
  • Policing the roads.
  • Information and intelligence.
  • Conducting investigations.

Qualified special constable

Once the special constable has successfully completed phase two learning in their chosen area(s), they will need to demonstrate competence in that area. This is done through further work-based assessment and collecting more evidence in the OCP – this time against specific criteria that are relevant to qualified special constable. Again, their evidence will be assessed and if it meets the criteria the special constable will become a qualified special constable. At this point the special constable training is complete and the special constable can be deployed independently in their chosen area of policing.

We estimate that, on average, a special constable would be able to achieve qualified special constable in their chosen area of policing within four to six months after achieving directed patrol status.

If a special constable wants to become a regular police constable, or to have parity with Independent Patrol Status, they will need to complete the phase two learning, and provide evidence of competence against the relevant criteria, in all five areas of policing practice.

We estimate that, on average, a special constable would be able to achieve qualified special constable status across all five areas of policing practice within two years following directed patrol status.

Other key information

All of the learning in SCLP is aligned with the first year of the PC Degree Apprenticeship. If an special constable wants to become a regular police constable, their learning and experience as an special constable will be taken into account, so they will not have to duplicate any of the learning they have already completed.

There is an optional coaching, mentoring and assessment module within the phase two learning. This can be delivered separately to any special constable who would like to go on to support future new special constables in a tutor role.

If you have any queries about this new learning programme, please contact us at: PolicingEQF@college.pnn.police.uk


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