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Probation training and the community justice curriculum

Nellis, M. (2003) Probation training and the community justice curriculum. British Journal of Social Work, 33 (7). pp. 943-960. ISSN 0045-3102

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In England and Wales the Diploma in Social Work was superseded by the more specialized Diploma in Probation Studies in 1997/98 as a basic qualification for probation officers. It combines academic and practical learning in the form of a two-year undergraduate degree and a twelve-module National Vocational Qualification (NVQ). There was considerable professional opposition to this at the time and opinion remains mixed as to how justifiable the change was, and how successful it has been. This article seeks to defend the principle of combining the academic and the practical but, via a critique of two recent commentaries on the Diploma in Probation Studies, questions whether the idea of academic teaching on a professional qualification has been adequately conceptualized and implemented. It argues against teaching that is governed uncritically by the protocols and problematics of pure academic disciplines, and insists upon the use of material which is selected and tailored to the intellectual needs of working probation officers. It outlines a better conceptualization of what a `community justice curriculum' might look like, based in part on the approach taken to probation training at the University of Birmingham.