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Knowledge and the Probation Service: Raising Standards for Trainees, Assessors and Practitioners



Knowledge and the Probation Service: Raising Standards for Trainees, Assessors and Practitioners

Philip Whitehead, Jamie Thompson

ISBN: 978-0-470-09205-7 November 2004 236 Pages

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Knowledge and the Probation Service is designed to help trainee probation officers study for the Diploma in Probation Studies, focusing particularly on the NVQ elements and making the link to the degree programme in probation. Written by Philip Whitehead and Jamie Thompson, each with over 25 years’ experience of the probation service, it will also be valuable to those assessing and managing trainees.

Opening with an historical overview of training in probation, the book moves on to examine key aspects of the NVQ: report writing, information for Practice Development Assessors, how to put training into practice once qualified, and how to progress beyond the codification of knowledge to achieving vocational excellence as a probation officer.

Timely and relevant, Knowledge and the Probation Service will stimulate and motivate trainees, offer food for thought for those involved in the planning and development of probation training, and will contribute to the wider debate about the nature of probation identity in these changing times for the service.

Teaching and learning features include:

  • Chapter menus and summaries
  • Further reading
  • Glossary
  • Appendices


About the authors.



1. Training and knowledge in probation: A historical overview.
Introduction; Emergence of probation; Training in the early years; The need for training gathers pace; The first Home Office Training Scheme; Casework in probation; The 1940s and beyond; The implications of empirical research; Towards the present; From generic to specialised training in the 1990s; Conclusion; Summary; Further reading.

2. Knowledge in vocational education.
Towards an understanding of change; Knowledge and competence; The knowledge economy; Theory and practice: Knowledge for work; From codification to learning; Feelings: Last but not least; Summary; Further reading.

3. The Diploma in Probation Studies.
Introduction; Occupational Standards; NVQs; PDAs; Assessment and knowledge; Analysing the knowledge requirements; Summary; Further reading.

4. Knowledge resources for trainees: Help with the NVQ.
Introduction; Victims; Explaining offending behaviour: The search for patterns; The probation service and legislation 1861–2001; Local area policies and guidelines; Professional values; Risk assessment; Effective practice/methods of working; Communication; Enforcement and compliance; Self-reflection and personal development; Confidentiality; Conclusion; Summary.

5. Knowledge resources for trainees: Writing quality Pre-Sentence Reports.
Introduction; Rationale; Defining quality; Process; Content of PSRs; Key features in report writing; Reports and race; The sentencing framework; Implications for reports: Points to emphasise; Nil reports; Conclusion; Summary of available sentences; Additional requirements; Strategy for learning how to write reports; Summary; Further reading.

6. The Practice Development Assessor: Producing quality probation officers.
Introduction; The role of the PDA; NVQ Assessor; Internal Verifier; Three PDA models; Reflections on the role; Knowledge as a multifaceted concept; Knowledge typology for probation practice; Elements of a training strategy; Conclusion: Further reflections on the NVQ; Summary; Further reading.

7. Being a probation officer.
Introduction; Continuing professional development; Learning in practice; Emotional development; Personal values; Probation values; Being a probation officer; Summary; Further reading.

8. From competence to excellence: Going beyond the codification of knowledge.
Summary of Chapters 1–7; Going beyond minimum knowledge requirements; Threats to knowledge; The PDA–TPO dynamic; Suggestions for further improvements; Final comments; Summary.


1. Influences that have shaped five key phases of probation history .

2. Criminological perspectives: Help for practitioners.

3. Client or offender: The labelling perspective.

4. Joining loose wires to make connections: Developing practice awareness.

5. Methods of working with offenders.

6. Differentiating the ‘what’ from the ‘how’ of practice.




"...a thought provoking text that is not only a useful resource...but to anyone interested in...probation practice today." (British Society of Criminology, No 57, June 2005)

" … an interesting read and considers a number of important points for debate." (Journal of Community and Applied Social Psychology, April 2006)

“…a book whose language is clear and compact… which offers an overview of learning at all levels of practice.” (VISTA - Perspectives on Probation Criminal Justice and Civil Renewal, Volume 11, No.1)

“…offers structured and practical outlines to assist assessors in efficient and effective work practice… a fully comprehensive book relating to probation practices.” (Forensic Update 88, January 2007)


  • Author team have over 40 years of combined experience working in the probation service and have written extensively on the subject.
  • This is the first core textbook written specifically for probation officers and their trainees.
  • The only book to offer a structure to understand Occupational Standards