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The great training robbery

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NT’s Time Out for Training campaign has outlined nurses’ difficulties in obtaining CPD and even mandatory training due to budget cuts and staffing levels. Jennifer Taylor finds out how nurses’ experiences compare with those of other public servants

Nurses have huge difficulties in obtaining CPD but they are not alone – police officers, teachers and doctors face similar problems.

‘The police service, in terms of learning, training and development is very much a mixed feast,’ says John Giblin, a police officer and secretary of the professional development subcommittee for the Police Federation of England and Wales.

The only mandatory training is the initial police learning development programme, a two-year programme undertaken by all student officers in a local force during their probationary period. The programme, however, suffers from a lack of consistency and standardisation across England and Wales. ‘There appear to be 48 variations on a theme,’ says Mr Giblin.

After those two years, it is possible that a police officer might not take any more training. But, if they do, the offer includes: professionalising the investigation process, which is for detectives; the police race and diversity learning and development programme, where ‘uptake is not as good as it could be’; and general training, which could take one of three routes.

Officers can take the core leadership development programme (CLDP), which consists of 17 modules and, says Mr Giblin, ‘develops the leadership and role skills of post-probationary constables, sergeants, inspectors and corresponding police staff’.

A second option – the best, in Mr Giblin’s view – is the CLDP route plus a nationally recognised qualification that could be a certificate in team-leading, a certificate in management or a diploma in management.

Officers can also follow the unaccredited route and take individual modules.

The programme is not mandatory and uptake varies from force to force. And, if forces do take it on, it is still up to them to decide what resources they allocate to it.

The two main issues, according to Mr Giblin, are buy-in at senior level and having the money available. ‘The problem in policing is there’s an expectation of police officers just to do the day job. And because of this, we’ve got real issues in terms of [getting more] protected learning time.’

He adds: ‘There’s a revolution taking place in terms of [trying to increase] training and development [opportunities] but the service is cash strapped and it’s not seen as an investment.’

Teachers face similar problems. ‘There are still a lot of people who don’t make a link between good-quality training and improving educational standards,’ says Chris Keates, general secretary of the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers, which represents teachers and head teachers in the UK.

There are hopes that this will change via a new performance management system agreed by the government and teaching unions. The new regulations, implemented in September 2007, stipulate that training and development needs must be discussed at a teacher’s performance review.

‘We’re trying to get CPD put on to a more regularised and equitable footing,’ says Ms Keates. After teachers have had their first induction year, during which they are entitled to time off for development, CPD tends to depend on the school where they work.

Therein lies the problem. ‘Professional development is given a very low priority generally by school managers,’ says Ms Keates. ‘Often schools think CPD is just about going on training courses. And because they think that, they then say: “Well, we can’t afford in this school to send teachers on training courses.” In most schools, teachers will say they don’t have access to proper CPD.’

Schools also say it is difficult to release teachers from the job. Some of the best professional development comes from teachers working with other teachers but schools say they cannot afford to double up. And, while qualified support staff could cover a teacher for a one-day training course, longer periods require schools to hire a qualified teacher, which they find prohibitively expensive.

NASUWT receives a lot of complaints from schools and teachers saying that the training that is available is often poor quality. But the main complaint is that they receive no access at all to training. So, as with the police, it is possible that a teacher might not do any CPD at all after the first year in post.

Ms Keates is keen to point out that changes are under way which she is hopeful will put good-quality professional development in place. But she adds: ‘We’ve got a long way to go before we get to the point where the attitude in schools is that teachers’ professional development is actually important and will impact on the quality of education.’

For doctors, there are training and non-training posts. Training posts are nationally commissioned jobs that are advertised for different medical specialties.

Dr Johann Malawana, deputy chairperson of the British Medical Association’s junior doctors committee and a specialty registrar in obstetrics and gynaecology in London, explains: ‘If you’re in a training post then essentially you’re on a defined pathway, a curriculum, to go through to be fully trained. If you’re on a non-training post, then it’s a bit more ad hoc.’

Training posts follow an apprenticeship model, where much of the training is on the job. ‘That’s why trusts find it so easy to raid these budgets, because it’s so hard to put a finger on what is training and what is not training,’ he says. In addition, funding for training is not ringfenced.

What is clear is that junior doctors spend a lot of their own money on training, despite having a training account for the year to attend courses that are not delivered within their hospital.

‘Those can vary hugely, massively, between £800 and zero for the annual year. That is a lot to do with how strategic health authorities and deaneries are raiding those budgets,’ says Dr Malawana. ‘The vast majority of money spent on courses comes out of the trainee’s own pocket. Most juniors nowadays are spending between £2,000 and £4,000 of their own money each year on going on courses.’ On top of that, they also pay for examination fees, which cannot be claimed as study expenses.

Backfill to cover for study leave is ‘a massive issue’, says Dr Malawana. ‘Because of the change last year with training compared to non-training posts, the trusts are finding it increasingly hard to fill gaps in the rota,’ he says. ‘That’s just what’s happening normally so, when you talk about training and going off and doing your courses, it becomes increasingly hard. Most doctors now will use their annual leave for at least part of their training.’

As for mandatory training such as fire safety and moving and handling, Dr Malawana says doctors face the same problems as nurses when it comes to training being cut or put on hold.

Doctors are given a set number of days for study leave in their contracts, and the number depends on what stage of training they are in at the time.

But Dr Malawana says: ‘I know very few doctors who will even reach a third of the days that they’re allowed to have for training days. Because of gaps in the rota it’s impossible to take the days that you’re meant to do. I would say that to achieve a third of your study leave days would be quite amazing.’

Access to and cost of professional development in different public services

Junior doctors

  • Spend £2,000–£4,000 of their own money each year on courses

  • Most use annual leave for part of their training

  • Receive a set number of days in their contracts for study leave but take fewer than a third of them

Police officers

  • Cash-strapped service sees training as a distraction rather than an investment

  • Post-probationary training is a ‘mixed feast’ and down to local buy-in

  • Protected learning time is difficult to achieve when officers are expected to do their day job


  • Schools say they cannot afford to send teachers on training courses

  • The cost of buying in cover can often be prohibitive

  • Professional development is given a very low priority by school managers


  • Strategic health authorities are raiding nurse training funds to help pay back deficits

  • More than half of nurses do not have access to adequate training to progress in their careers

  • Nurses using their own time and funds to go on post-registration training

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