Long gone are the national police training centres, where new recruits would be trained alongside counterparts from across the country, before returning to their home forces to hit the beat.
In 2016, with the recognition of policing as a graduate level occupation, the Policing Education Qualification Framework (PEQF) was introduced. This followed an earlier change (IPLDP), in which policing and universities came together as the narrative around professionalising policing began to build.
It was over to individual police forces up and down the country (of which there are 43 in the Wales and England) to engage with higher education institutions, and to seek out training partnerships that met their needs.
Contracts needed to deliver the operational initial entry pathways into policing – a degree-level apprenticeship programme, which officers will complete during their probation if they join without a degree; and a graduate programme for officers who already hold a degree upon entry, also to be completed during their probation.
They also needed to have in-built flexibility – One, because the number of officers going through training on any intake goes up and down; and two, because officers can be called upon at any time if there’s a public safety need to do so – leaving classrooms empty.
Securing best value for money
With collaboration between forces in Wales common for a decade and more, and a shared procurement service already in place between South Wales and Gwent Police, it wasn’t unusual that the four Welsh forces (so North Wales and Dyfed-Powys Police too) decided to come together and set about procuring the product once for Wales. In the last five years, the three southern Wales forces have together delivered procurement related savings in excess of £11 million (2015-2020).
As this was the second time forces had gone out to market to procure this initial officer training, there was learning to be had about what had worked well during the first contract, and there was clarity about the amendments they needed this time around. This cumulative knowledge provided a clear ‘want’ from all involved… now they just needed to execute it.
- This was a contract of a significant scale, involving North Wales Police too, who ordinarily partner with the north west region, given their proximity and shared experiences. It wasn’t an unknown relationship, but was a break away from what had become the norm. This involved all four forces, their individual needs, and potentially an array of decision makers and governance structures.
- The invitation to tender (ITT) was also being prepared by many of the same teams that were heavily committed within their own forces to delivering the recruitment and training activity in support of the biggest intake of new officers policing has ever seen (Operation Uplift).
- While the hierarchical nature of policing and the ability to work well under pressure is what’s required in an emergency situation, to deliver this complex piece of work on time and within budget, it was recognised that stability and consistency were key to securing the best training solution for Wales’ newest police officers. Ideally, the chair would remain in situ for the duration of the project, and would be supported by a senior police officer, rather than an officer be in the chair – this was because operational demands and the turnover within rank, means officers move on frequently to where they are next needed.
- A representative steering group, with a clear terms of reference | Operational representatives as well as other key stakeholders such as Communications and the Police Federation improved buy-in and enabled a smooth and timely implementation of the project.
- An empowered Chairperson, one force lead on behalf of all four| A senior police staff member, who remained with the project throughout.
- Good governance practices | All four forces were represented on the steering group. The group met regularly and was only quorate where four forces were represented.
- Adherence to project management principles |Decision logs were vital with so many stakeholders to keep engaged.
- Pre-market engagement | A lot of work went in to build the evidence base, shaping how the new programme should to look. This in turn allowed the team to develop really specific and well-evidenced technical questions… and because of that, delivered a fit for purpose output.
- Positive procurement practices | All four forces provided input to the specification which allowed local requirements to be reflected, but with consistency across most elements of the contract. This allowed KPIs to be aligned which will aid the contract management stage of the project. Also, an appropriate lotting structure within the tender contributed to a successful model.
The tender resulted in bids from a range of bidders and there was good competition.
The project designed and delivered a new contract within 12 months for all four forces and contracts were awarded to Welsh universities.
The contract is a framework contract, meaning individual forces have the ability to manage their own call-offs within the confines of the contract – this also removes an administrative burden for the lead force to be overly involved in the call-offs. Whilst continued collaboration is the aim, this provides options for forces to adapt if priorities diverge.
It is also expected that the project will deliver significant cost savings, enabling spare resource to be ploughed back into policing priorities.
To discuss the approach on this collaborative project, contact:
Sian Freeman – firstname.lastname@example.org
Gemma Evans – email@example.com