How do I Fulfil the Training and Development Requirements of the FMC and my Member Organisation(s)? – A Personal View by Neil Robinson as at June 2017

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How do I Fulfil the Training and Development Requirements of the FMC and my Member Organisation(s)? – A Personal View by Neil Robinson as at June 2017

Firstly, I don’t think this is the right question. A better question might be “how are you going to inspire your mediation development, keep up to date, remain credible, and make sure your practice is the best it could possibly be to respond to an ever-deepening well of challenging situations?”

The best way to do this is to find a mixture of learning and experiential methods that meet those needs, and to discuss and agree them with your PPC.  The formal elements of training and development are to be found in the FMC Standards Framework 2014 and elsewhere; they could be summarised as follows:

  1. Your PPC will expect to discuss your training plans with you, especially pre-accreditation
  2. Your training and development record and plan is a key element of your FMC portfolio
  3. Some FMC Member Organisations (especially FMA) expect the PPC to sign off your training hours when you reapply for membership annually, which is itself a requirement of continuing registration with FMC
  4. On re-accreditation with FMC on a three yearly basis (refer to the Standards Framework) you will need to provide a training and development plan
  5. LAA services need to provide evidence of training in their Office Manuals and individual training records; this has always been a requirement of the Mediation Quality Mark (MQM) but the 2018 contracts will do away with MQM and all will be governed by the FMC Standards
  6. Individual services (especially within law firms) will have their own requirements for appraisal and Personal Development
  7. It is in any event a general expectation of both FMC and all Member Organisations that training and development be adequate and appropriate

Much of this therefore depends on the PPC/ supervisee relationship and how we jointly interpret requirements; the PPC has considerable discretion and responsibility.

In my view, it’s a mistake to see the “abandonment” of a formal requirement to undertake 10 hours accredited CPD per year as a relaxation; the intention in the 2014 FMC Standards document was to bring mediation into line with many other professions (not least in the health and social care and law sectors) in placing the responsibility on practitioners and their supervisors to be more accountable (to themselves, their professional bodies, and especially their clients) for their development. The question is therefore not “what can I get away with?” but “what best serves these multiple needs?” And, if mediation is the polymathic endeavour I believe it to be, the responsibility to stay up to date and stimulated is very great, not least because in our country the length of foundation training is so very short.

What does the FMC say about what counts as training and development?

The context of continuing development in the Standards Framework is the section on Re-accreditation – which doesn’t yet exist! But we have generally been using the limited Guidance in section 3 of the Framework as a basis. Referring to the full document is important, but the central paragraph states:

“Continuing development can be achieved through a wide range of means, including accredited and non-accredited courses and conferences, practice-based activities such as co-mediation, observation and action-based learning, on-line learning and research, reading, research, and higher education programmes. There are no restrictions on the kind of activities that can count, but it is important that they are relevant to the mediator’s practice, result in relevant learning and benefits, and taken together provide an adequate level of updating. There are no requirements for development activities to total to a particular number of hours, although for guidance it is unlikely that less than ten hours per year engaged in specific development activity will be sufficient. Development should be timely, for instance when changes in family law are announced mediators will be expected to update themselves sufficiently quickly so that they are able to continue to provide accurate information to clients. Activities would normally be expected to be spread across the three-year period (if the period includes a substantial career break or other period of absence from practice, the mediator will need to explain how s/he has ensured that s/he is sufficiently up-to-date on returning to practice).”

This is the template against which we should be asking the question as to whether any particular activity “counts.”

It’s also important from the point of view of the FMC not to overstate the hours – this is primarily the responsibility of the training provider, but it’s worth checking.  Perhaps this paragraph and the Training Record in the portfolio template place undue emphasis on knowledge of law and practice, and insufficient on skills, strategies and conversation.

There is no longer any distinction between Category A and Category B points – indeed, there are no longer really “points at all – better described as “training and development hours”? Again, the designation is really “whether my PPC thinks this is good development for me.” It may be that a similar sort of mixture of activity as in the old days – eg one or more courses, a conference, some case discussion, some reading – is the thing to aim for.

Recording training

The Standards Framework states, again in respect of the anticipated re-accreditation process: “Mediators are strongly advised to record and evaluate activities as they take place rather than waiting until the point of reapplication.”

As a PPC, I have generally not expected to see formal development plans although some supervisees do supply an annual record. It may however be worth getting used to having something clearly recorded, and reviewing development needs annually is a good discipline. There are plenty of examples of development plans out there; if you’re starting from scratch, it may be best to use that included in the FMC portfolio template. I have used that to create a slightly different one for those who are already FMCA and it’s attached or available from me.

What is supervision?

The requirement is of course for a minimum of 4 hours annually plus an additional 10 hours over the period of your trainee work. Essentially this is one to one engagement between supervisee and PPC; for the pre-FMCA time, the expectation would be that it is for an element of one to one “teaching” by the PPC and for work on the portfolio.

The Framework states: “The mediator must provide a record of adequate support from a PPC. This will normally not be less than four hours per year, at least two of which must be individual face-to-face sessions (the remaining hours can be remote or through a small-group session, but not a lecture or seminar). It is the responsibility of mediators to ensure that their PPC support is sufficient for the needs of their practice; this may require more than four hours of contact per year.”

Is Skype supervision “face to face?”

This is directly covered in the Standards document above, though we do now of course also have the Code on Online mediation, so matters have moved on. If the four hours were primarily remote – telephone/Skype etc – that would certainly give me cause for concern, but Skype as part of the year’s activity seems to be acceptable. Again, it’s surely a negotiation with the PPC.

So for example, as with mediation itself, if online projects enhance and broaden your development then they are valuable and innovative; if they dilute and cheapen the learning, that is another matter.

What does Case Discussion count as?

It’s not possible to count all your time in Case Discussion as supervision hours. Neither is there a formula for this (though some have suggested to me that 4 hours Case Discussion might count as 1.5 hours towards supervision requirement.) Case Discussion must count as something, but for me, reviewing someone’s membership renewal or portfolio submission, I think it counts most as evidence of rounded engagement with the mediation community.  It might be better to say that time in Case Discussion specifically discussing your case could count.

What is the interface between Training and Development and Supervision?

The requirements for ongoing supervision are set out at section 3.3 (see above)

You can’t double count supervision hours towards your Training hours; it may be that certain elements of say case discussion have a formal teaching element and could count towards T and D, but they can’t then be counted towards your 4 or 10 hours as well.

So what is CPD, then?

Given that it is not mentioned in the FMC Standards Framework, it may well simply be an acronym which has reached the end of its useful life. FMA has, I hope, gone out of its way on numerous occasions to clarify what “counts as” Training and Development for the purposes of satisfying various standards. Since the “deregulation” of CPD in the 2014 Standards Document, this is fundamentally a matter for dialogue between PPC and supervisee. The intention of the Standards Document is to emphasise the responsibility of every mediator to make sure they are both up-to-date and developing their practice in an informed way. The definition of Continuing Development in section 3.3 was a good start, but will benefit from revisiting by the FMC.

For FMA renewal, mediators self-certify their development hours, which is signed off by their PPC. This is likely to be closer than some other MOs to the FMC requirement for re-accreditation.

No mediator has to “do courses,” unless their PPC has said it’s an essential part of their learning, but courses – not least FMA’s own Advanced Programme – remain an essential part of a mediator’s learning and development. There is no longer any trainer approval mechanism, but mediators and PPCs should be looking for the best options – and not always the cheapest!

So those training organisations (for example me or Family Mediation Centre Staffordshire) that used to have to accredit with SRA and/ or an FMC Member Organisation like the College of Mediators in order to provide “accredited CPD training courses” no longer need to do so, because there is no such mechanism[1].  For me, this means both a greater flexibility in what might be offered, and a greater responsibility to provide something that meets need (of mediators and clients) and will fulfil a PPC’s expectation of her supervisee. Taken positively, it is freeing; it also however risks “dumbing down.”

This is a particular challenge for Member Organisations whose courses will partly have been attended because of their CPD status; although it does mean that lead bodies will have to think more creatively about how they provide development, the role of those lead bodies as providers of training should not diminish – the need for national status, high quality provision is greater than ever. FMA, for example, has been clear about this from the outset.

My own development as a trainer, and my view about the provision of training, has its roots in a determination that the services for which I was responsible should be credible in terms of the knowledge and experience base of their mediators.  When it became clear that there was a “gap” in the provision of affordable, local training, it became essential to fill that gap. But that training has always been based on informed, inspirational conversation and interaction, so the borders between “formal training” and, say, case discussion, have always been blurred.

Does that mean that any mediator (or any FMCA or PPC) could offer any form of face to face “training” and call it “Category A points?” – this has recently been suggested by an FMA member. The ultimate arbiters would seem to be a) the PPC in consultation with the supervisee and b) the FMC on reaccreditation. As PPC, I want to be satisfied that the supervisee has had adequate training and development of the type described early in the document. Again, the change in the status and expectation of “continuing development” contained in the Standards Framework and elsewhere is an encouragement to greater responsibility and collaboration, not to “anything goes.”

For PPCs, there is also the requirement to have an additional five hours’ specific PPC training. Section 4 of the Framework states:

“They must normally attend at least one updating event specifically for PPCs each year, which may be a national, regional or synchronous online event, and undertake a minimum of five hours’ updating annually that is directly relevant to their role as a PPC (including the event).”

What might count as such training? FMA has been clear so far that the Regional PPC days that some Regional Networks Convenors (eg Lisa Parkinson and I) offer cannot take the place of a formal PPC Update day such as Beverley Sayers offers on behalf of FMA. But the costs of putting on and attending such Update days is so challenging at both ends that this is having to be looked at again. The South East PPC Network days I attend three times a year offer (usually) 4 PPC CPD points. Is that right?  Apart from the FMC definitions, the LAA Supervisor Standard form, which needs to be completed before any LAA audit, requires confirmation of annual attendance at an FMC recognised PPC update course.  Which would seem to suggest that attendance at the formal Update course is still necessary (and certainly, in my view, very valuable.)

What isn’t allowed is a Double Counting of the “CPD” for both your “mediation 10 hours” and your “PPC 5 hours.”

What might I expect as your PPC?

I expect to discuss with you a balance between reasonable cost and time out of the “office,” and a varied and inspiring diet of learning activities. That’s likely to include some, if not all, of:

  1. Four hours of PPC supervision a year, including one to one supervision at least twice a year
  2. Email and telephone supervision on case specific matters
  3. If unaccredited, approving summaries, observing, co-mediating, and finding an appropriate mechanism to manage assessment meetings “together”
  4. Participation in case discussion
  5. Attendance at training and development days – not least, those of your Member Organisation and wider
  6. Attendance at an annual conference, say FMA, if not MO Advanced training
  7. Specific training to fill gaps – eg basic finance or domestic abuse days
  8. Reading – both mediation texts and wider

…and my expectation is that it’s likely to entail far more time than the minimum FMC requirement.

The key is that mediation is a huge privilege and responsibility, and reflecting on experience by taking up a variety of learning activities is essential.

With thanks to Beverley Sayers for all her guidance in PPC Update days and elsewhere, and as ever to Lisa Parkinson.  For more on the topic of development and training, see Lisa Parkinson Family Mediation 3rd edition especially Chapter 14. This document however is my own spin, developed from an earlier version for my own supervisees

Neil Robinson June 2017

[1] Except of course the courses which provide Foundation, PPC or Child Inclusive Mediation training, which (in due course) must be accredited and audited by FMC