Job drive parades probation diploma

April 5, 2002

The National Probation Service has put the diploma in probation studies at the heart of a recruitment drive designed to attract 1,000 new trainee probation officers.

The diploma, introduced in 1998, was the result of a fierce fight by academics and probation officers against government plans to remove the probation qualification from universities.

Eithne Wallis, national director of the probation service, said, "Our innovative qualification for trainee probation officers, which integrates hands-on vocational training with a rigorous academic programme, has been well received and offers real benefits to recruits."

The probation service is particularly keen to attract ethnic minority recruits.

Ten years ago, the professional training for probation officers was located in social work departments in universities. The then Conservative government was determined to sever the connection between probation and social work and wanted the training removed from universities altogether.

Under Labour a compromise was reached - probation education remained in universities but it was separated from social work. In Scotland, criminal justice work remains mainstream in the qualifying diploma for social work.

Joan Orme, professor of social work at Glasgow University and chair of the joint university council social work and education committee, said: "As a work-based route to qualification the probation degree does put heavy demands on trainees.

"It is also questionable whether a totally work-based approach does enable trainees to develop skills in critical reflection, drawing on research/evidence for best practice."

The NPS was created in April 2001 by the Criminal Justice and Court Services Act.

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