time for a PEP talk


We are delighted with how students have responded to the new Practical Experience Portfolio (PEP) scheme (introduced in January 2013) . The PEP scheme replaced the Initial Professional Development Scheme (IPDS). The primary objective in devising the new scheme was to ensure the operation of a robust, practical scheme of workplace experience.

In designing the scheme we have significantly reduced the volume of material that needs to be compiled and submitted compared to IPDS and increased the rigour and relevance of the requirements. Students who have passed all exams can also now submit their portfolio when it is ready and receive feedback much earlier. The student guide has also been overhauled and is very user-friendly and transparent about CIPFA’s expectations.

Jonathan Castle, who trained at Kent County Council said: ‘The reduced volume of material required compared to IPDS helped ensure a more focused approach when writing up and my reflection was far more beneficial. The focus on ethical considerations was challenging, however writing it up made me reflect on ethics properly and I feel I can apply my learning from this in future. Also, despite my initial cynicism, I found the reflective personal statement element very useful; it made me pick out things that I had done and think about what I had learnt. Also, I identified some bad experiences and, while I had wanted to banish them to the past, I soon realised that you actually learnt more from those experiences than the good ones!’

Anna Lancaster from London Borough of Wandsworth found the introduction of PEP gave her the impetus she needed: ‘When I read about PEP I was energised to complete my portfolio having stalled with IPDS. Luckily I had been completing my log of workplace experience throughout my studies, so this was easy to complete. Once I had read the guidance and planned the activities to write up, I realised that it wouldn’t be such a big task. Analysing ethical dimensions was a challenge at first, as this isn’t something you would necessarily consider when, for example, producing service budget reports. But using the guidance and thinking about each ethical principle made me realise that there is actually a lot to say when you think about the wider implications of what seems like a mainly numerical task.’

Maggie Donald from Grant Thornton reflected on her portfolio: ’I found PEP a good reminder of all the work I had undertaken during my training contract; I really noticed how far I had come. I’d agree with everyone who told me to begin the process of keeping my workplace log when I started, and not leave it until the end. It didn’t actually take me too long to pull the whole portfolio together. I felt it was quite an impressive collection at the end and something I was proud to have completed.’ The reviewer agreed!

The portfolios are reviewed against published criteria by reviewers external to CIPFA. One reviewer commented: ‘Reducing the number of evidenced activities at first felt like a dilution of the portfolio, however it has meant that their quality has greatly increased. The ethics angle was something that I thought students would struggle with, however each portfolio so far has blown me away with the detailed thought process that each student has set aside for ethics.’ Another reviewer commented: ‘The streamlined requirements of PEP are working very well. The portfolios I have reviewed are clear, focused and relevant. I am particularly impressed with how students are handling the ethics dimension and with their consideration of professional values and attitudes, making it relevant to even the simplest of tasks! What tips can I give?

  • Don’t consider PEP a chore
  • Read the student guide – it is very clear
  • When choosing the activities to write about remember we are interested in examples showing your growth and learning
  • The learning you have been through and still require should flow nicely into CPD.’

What should PEP include?

Under PEP, portfolios should include:

  • A log of 400 days of relevant work experience
  • Written content on the completion of three workplace activities
  • A reflective statement of learning from the whole training period, including future personal learning and development goals

For the three workplace activities, which are expected to be pieces of work that students would be doing anyway, not created specifically for PEP, students’ portfolios need to include content on the planning and execution of these activities, their learning from them and an analysis of the ethical considerations associated with each activity. The focus on ethics is a key new dimension, forming a crucial link with the coverage of ethics in the examined syllabus.

For any queries on CIPFA’s PEP visit the website: www.cipfa.org or email studentsupport@cipfa.org.