Online GDPR Practitioner Certificate: Going from Strength to Strength

Act Now Training would like to congratulate all our delegates who have recently completed our online GDPR Practitioner Certificate.

At the start of the Pandemic, we decided to offer our flagship classroom based GDPR Practitioner Certificate as an online option. We redesigned the course for the online world with even more emphasis on practical exercises and case studies to try and recreate the classroom learning environment. Delegates receive all the fantastic features of our classroom course but in a live online learning environment accessible from anywhere in the world.

The course is aimed at those undertaking the role of Data Protection Officer under GDPR whether in the public or the private sector. It teaches delegates all the essential GDPR skills and knowledge. The course takes place over four days (one day per week) and involves lectures, assessments and exercises. This is followed by a written assessment. Candidates are then required to complete a practical project (in their own time) to achieve the certificate.

In less than 18 months, 178 delegates have completed the course representing a diverse range of organisations including private companies, councils, universities and government departments. We have even had delegates from the Houses of Parliament, Gibraltar and the Isle of Man. 

Read some of the delegate feedback below:

“The GDPR Practitioner Certificate course was really excellent.  The content was thorough and tied in with real life situations to really embed the learning.  It has really helped me in my role, even after the first week I had new practical skills I could use in my daily work life.” KL, Kent County Council

“Very useful, insightful course that provided hands on practical tips on GDPR implementation within our business.” AD, Danske Bank

“The course was delivered at a pace that suited the learners and with ample opportunities to revisit tricky topics or ask for clarification. The supplied learning materials were comprehensive and genuinely added value to the learning experience.” Nigel Leech, CEFAS

“The course was the right balance between overall guidance and detailed information presented in an easy and understandable format.” RR, Chugai Pharma Europe Ltd

​“The course delivered through Act Now was not only educational but informative.
The teaching skills were excellent, I felt at ease in the class and came away with a tremendous amount of knowledge that I can use in everyday situations. Thank you.”
HB, Foseco International Limited

Our next online GDPR Practitioner Certificate courses start in October. We also have a classroom course starting in November in Manchester. 

For those who have successfully completed our GDPR Practitioner Certificate, we have one place left on our Advanced Certificate in GDPR Practice course starting in October. 

Act Now Launches Revised Foundation Certificate in Information Governance

Act Now Training is proud to announce the launch of its revised Foundation Certificate in Information Governance. This qualification is designed for information management professionals who need a foundation in the basics of information rights law and information governance. It is a fully online and interactive course designed by leading Information Governance experts Scott Sammons and Ibrahim Hasan. Scott said:

I am pleased to be involved in the revision of this ground-breaking online qualification. With up to date content on a range of Information Governance issues it is a great starter qualification for new information governance professional across the public and private sectors.”

The course contains three learning streams namely Data Protection, Freedom of Information and Records Management. These streams now contain additional exclusive content covering cyber security and data subjects’ rights. Using the latest web based technology, delegates will be able to learn (without leaving their desks) by attending three live webinars. In addition they will have exclusive access to four recorded modules. Finally they will do a short online assessment to achieve the certificate.

Since the launch of the first version in 2016, hundreds of delegates have successfully completed this course. They represent a diverse range of organisations from the UK and abroad including multinational corporations, local authorities, universities, NHS, government departments and regulators. Feedback has been very positive:

The course covered the main topics that are important to my job, and answered queries that regularly arise. After completing the course I felt reassured that I could apply this knowledge on day to day basis in my job.” EF, Brighton and Hove City Council

Modules were interesting and packed full of useful content. As someone relatively new to the sector, this was the perfect course for me. JH, Healthcare Improvement 

I’ve learnt a lot and I am confident I will be more of an asset to my team because of it. The tutor was also open to discussions which really helped us to relate the information to our own areas. LW, Milton Keynes Council

Good course, well delivered, offering a good grounding in the subject matter.
Many thanks.
 MB, Flintshire County Council

These are difficult times when traditional face-to-face training is not an option.
However the learning cannot stop. The revised Foundation Certificate in Information Governance allows delegates to learn about all the important information governance subjects from the comfort of their home office and gain a qualification. It is also an ideal starter qualification for those who wish to progress to more advanced qualifications such as the as the GDPR Practitioner Certificate which is also now available as an online option.

See the full range of certificate courses available from Act Now here. 

Act Now’s FOI Practitioner Certificate: The Story So Far

At the end of 2018 Act Now announced the launch of its new FOI Practitioner Certificate. In keeping with the company’s ethos of delivering on the ground practical training, the new course is designed to meet the needs of practitioners and to enable them to fulfil their roles as FOI Officers.

Act Now is pleased to inform readers that in May and June the first two cohorts of delegates attended our fully booked courses in London and Manchester respectively.
The courses were designed and delivered by Susan Wolf, formerly a senior lecturer on the University of Northumbria’s LLM in Information Rights Law.

The course has so far attracted delegates from a range of public authorities, including the Crown Prosecution Service, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCGA), Nursing and Midwifery Council, University of West London, Dudley CCG, Land Registry, Lancashire Council, Cheshire Police and St Leger Homes,

Susan says:

 “I have looked at every aspect of this revised course to ensure it equips FOI officers with the knowledge they need to tackle FOI in a practical way.”

The course uses the same format as our very successful GDPR Practitioner Certificate.
It takes place over four days (one day per week) and involves lectures, discussion and practical drafting exercises. All delegates are encouraged to actively participate and share their experiences, in order to create an inclusive environment.  Over the coming months, further courses will be delivered by Susan, Ibrahim Hasan and Philip Jones.

What’s new?

The new course offers several innovations, which Act Now believes makes the it distinctive and highly relevant to FOI Officers and other practitioners with responsibility for providing access to public information. One innovation is that time is made available each day for delegates to reflect on what they have learned and how it will inform their practice. From her experience of delivering of training the first two cohorts, Susan noted:

Delegates were able to share their experiences and problems, and more importantly offer suggestions for tackling problems.  This was particularly useful for delegates with limited FOI experience, or from smaller organisations, who were able to take away practical suggestions about how to handle requests and deal with the exemptions.

The course also encourages delegates to become independent learners and provides guidance on ‘keeping up to date’ and understanding how cases are handled by the First Tier Information Rights Tribunal.  Susan says:

The law isn’t static; we keep getting new ICO guidance, based on Tribunal and Court decisions. It is important that FOI practitioners understand the importance of keeping up to date, and how to do this.”

The assessment of the course is innovative and modern. The assessment model will be very familiar to people who have undertaken our GDPR Practitioner Certificate. First delegates must complete a one-hour MCQ test. This is  worth 30% of the overall assessment. The remaining 70% involves a written project.  Delegates are given a practical scenario which requires them to draft a Refusal Notice and explain how they would handle the request and their selection of exemptions. All delegates receive detailed feedback on their written projects. Our Scottish FOISA course also now follows the same format.

Susan says:

The assessment has been designed to be relevant and useful; I can see little point in giving delegates a task that has no meaning to their practice.  Instead we want our delegates to feel like the assessment will inform their practice and enable them to enhance and develop their skills. Writing a robust refusal notice is an essential skill for FOI practitioners and lies at the heart of our assessment on this course.”

The delegate feedback so far has been excellent and it seems that this course has plugged a gap in the market:

An excellent course taught by someone with all the relevant knowledge and experience to impart to the delegates. Also very useful course materials which have proved to be helpful to me on a day to day basis in my job. I would really recommend this course to anyone who is dealing with FOI’s in their job.
JC, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra)

Ibrahim Hasan (Director of Act Now Training) says:

“We are pleased that this new FOI certificate course is meeting the training needs of FOI officers. Because of its emphasis on practical skills, we are confident that it will become the qualification of choice for current and future FOI Officers and advisers.”

More venues have been added for this course including Belfast. All our courses can be delivered at your premises at a substantially reduced cost.

Contact us for more information.

GDPR Practitioner Certificate: New Course For London

By popular demand Act Now Training has added an extra course in London for its GDPR Practitioner CertificateThis course is aimed at those undertaking the role of Data Protection Officer under GDPR whether in the public or the private sector.It will teach delegates essential GDPR skills and knowledge.

The course takes place over four days (one day per week) and involves lectures, assessments and exercises. This is followed by a written assessment. Candidates are then required to complete a practical project (in their own time) to achieve the certificate.

The new London course starts on 1st April 2019. Subsequent dates are 8th April, 15th April and 29th April.

This course has been super successful since launch. We ran it over 60 times in 2018 alone with over 900 delegates being trained. You can read some of the feedback here.

Make 2019 the year you achieve a GDPR qualification. Book early to avoid disappointment. 

BREXIT UPDATE: If you want to know more about how a No Deal Scenario will impact on GDPR and the DPA 2018, Ibrahim Hasan is presenting a webinar on 18th March 2019. We also have a new webinar on international transfers pre and post Brexit.

Act Now Launches New FOI Practitioner Certificate

 

Act Now is pleased to announce the launch of its brand new FOI Practitioner Certificate.

This course is one of the first of its kind, in a way that only Act Now delivers – practical, on the ground skills to help you fulfil your role as an FOI Officer.

This new certificate course is ideal for those wishing to acquire detailed knowledge of FOI and related information access legislation (including EIR) in a practical context. It has been designed by leading FOI experts including Ibrahim Hasan and Susan Wolf – formerly a senior lecturer on the University of Northumbria’s LLM in Information
Rights Law.

The course uses the same format as our very successful GDPR Practitioner Certificate. It takes place over four days (one day per week) and involves lectures, discussion and practical drafting exercises. This format has been extremely well received by over 1000  delegates who have completed the course. Time will also be spent at the end of each day discussing what issues delegates may face when implementing/advising on the FOI topics of the day.

The four teaching days are followed by an online assessment and a practical project to be completed within 30 days.

Why is this course different?

  • An emphasis on practical application of FOI rather than rote learning
  • Lots of real life case studies and exercises
  • An emphasis on drafting Refusal Notices
  • An online Resource Lab with links, guidance and over 5 hours of videos
  • Modern assessment methods rather than a closed book exam

 Who should attend?

This course is suitable for anyone working within the public sector who needs to learn about FOI and related legislation in a practical context, as well as those with the requisite knowledge wishing to have it recognised through a formal qualification. It is most suitable for:

  • FOI Officers
  • Data Protection Officers
  • Compliance Officers
  • Auditors
  • Legal Advisers

Susan, says:

“FOI and EIR are almost 14 years old. Since the Act and Regulations came into force there have been many legal developments and court decisions that have given practitioners a much greater understanding of the legal provisions and how they should be applied in practice. With this in mind, we have written this course to ensure that it equips public sector officers with all the necessary knowledge and skills they need to respond to freedom of information requests accurately and efficiently. This course, with its emphasis on the law in practice, will enable trainees to become more accomplished and confident FOI practitioners”

Susan will share her vast experience gained through years of helping organisations comply with their information rights legislation obligations. This, together with a comprehensive set of course materials and guidance notes, will mean that delegates will not only be in a position to pass the course assessment but to learn valuable skills which they will be able to apply in their workplaces for years to come.

This new course builds on Act Now’s reputation for delivering practical training at an affordable price:

This new course widens the choice of qualifications for IG practitioners and advisers. Ibrahim Hasan (Director of Act Now Training) commented:

“We are pleased be able to launch this new qualification. Because of its emphasis on practical skills, we are confident that it will become the qualification of choice for current and future FOI Officers and advisers.”

To learn more please visit our website.

All our courses can be delivered at your premises at a substantially reduced cost.
Contact us for more information.

Information Commissioner Congratulates Act Now DP Practitioner Certificate Candidates

 

 

 

 

Act Now Training’s Data Protection Practitioner Certificate continues to go from strength to strength. In Autumn 2015, a total of 16 delegates from the local government, health, education and private sectors passed the course with flying colours. 9 delegates achieved a merit and 3 achieved a distinction.

The Information Commissioner, Christopher Graham, said:

“Congratulations to all the successful candidates. It was worth all the slog, as I am sure you will find in your future careers. And it’s good to know that there is another cohort of qualified professionals looking after our data in the increasingly competitive digital world. All organisations need to take data protection and data security seriously or risk losing their reputation – not to mention customers. The new EU data protection framework brings these issues into even sharper focus – which makes your expertise even more essential.”

Over the years this course has produced many satisfied customers:

This was an excellent course specifically designed for the day to day practical use of DP. It demystified the subject in a way which I could understand. Tim Turner is an excellent tutor with a good sound knowledge and ability to put it across. HC, West Yorkshire Police

Tim broke the course down into manageable chunks and gave useful, practical examples that illustrated his points. This course has given me not only the knowledge but also the confidence to improve at my job and make my organisation better too! Thanks Tim! DH, Cheshire West and Chester Council

This course was designed to be more learner friendly in the way it is examined. It shows your practical knowledge in the assessment along with your ability to use the legislation in your project. A worthwhile course for the modern day data protection officer. DJ, Northumberland CC

Since commencing in my role I was expected to develop a knowledge of and interpret the DPA. This course has embedded my understanding of the act and given me the confidence to challenge existing and new practices to ensure compliance.  SD, NYFRS

I would thoroughly recommend the course, which has a sensible, practical focus and deals with the application of an otherwise abstract and complex piece of legislation to real life situations.
AG, Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman

The Data Protection Practitioner Certificate is our own qualification for those who work with Data Protection and privacy issues on a day-to-day basis. The course, designed in consultation with a panel of experts from the UK and Europe, takes place over four days (one day per week) and involves lectures, assessments and exercises. This is followed by a written assessment. Candidates are then required to complete a practical project (in their own time) to achieve the certificate.

The emphasis of the course is on practical skills which a Data protection Officer needs to do their job and raise DP standards in their organisation. The course syllabus has been recently revised to include more themes covered by the new European General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) expected to come into force in 2018.

Candidates also now have the option to take our specially designed GDPR webinars after completion and up to 12 months in the future as part of their course. This has been included for our Certificate candidates free of charge (normally £49+Vat each) allowing them to customise their learning with the greatest flexibility and ensure their preparations for GDPR are assisted with the most up to date information.

To learn more please visit our website or get in touch.

 

The @BCS FOI Certificate: A Career Boost

“The course gives you a greater understanding of FOI and EIR, as well as giving you greater confidence in their application. I feel that I can now advise on FOI and EIR with more authority.”
GJ, TFL

“Excellent course materials clearly presented by a very knowledgeable and friendly teacher. Highly recommended for new and experienced FOI officers.” 
LV, Public Health England

“Excellent trainer – fantastic breadth of knowledge and expertise. Would recommend this course to anyone.” 
PG, National Archives

“A perfectly pitched course led by an extremely knowledgeable trainer. Ideal for the novice or practising FOI officer.”
GT, Department of Health

“Thorough training, to the point but not dry.”
PS, Essex CC

“This has been a brilliant course – dynamic and pacey, which is an achievement in itself for such a dry subject.”
SB, Rural Payments Agency

The British Computer Society’s (BCS) Certificate in Freedom of Information (formerly ISEB) is now firmly established as one of the premier qualifications in FOI. It is internationally recognised and increasingly mentioned as a desirable qualification in FOI Officer job vacancies. Sometimes it is even stated as a requirement.

Act Now has been running courses leading to the certificate for many years. Our team of FOI experts have helped to make us one of the most successful companies in this area with a pass rate of over 85%.

Our course is aimed at anyone working in the FOI area, such as information managers, FOI practitioners, information governance officers, data protection officers, press officers and lawyers advising on information law issues. No prior knowledge is assumed although it always helps to have some experience of dealing with FOI requests. Our course runs over several weeks (one day per week) rather than being crammed into a few days. This allows delegates to get to know each other and benefit from their respective experience and knowledge. Often friendships are forged which continue to be of mutual assistance well after the course has ended.

Online Resource Lab

What makes the Act Now BCS FOI course unique is that we have a full online Resource Lab, which compliments the face-to-face teaching and course materials. Delegates can watch over 5 hours of videos on various aspects of the syllabus. Most videos are linked to an online quiz allowing delegates to test their knowledge at the end. There are also many standalone quizzes as well as links to ICO guides and other useful reference documents in the Resource Lab. This means that candidates have a full resource library which they can access at anytime to back up what they learnt on the course or to catch up if they fell asleep in the afternoon after a good lunch! Our courses are at five star (city centre) hotels so the latter is always a possibility.

The Exam!

The course is assessed through a three hour scenario based, closed book written exam which consists of:

  • Part A: 10 multiple choice questions (1 mark each)
  • Part B: 8 compulsory short narrative questions (5 marks each)
  • Part C: 6 questions – a compulsory case study (20 marks each) plus two other essay questions (15 marks each)

The pass mark is 50% (50/100) and the distinction mark is 80% (80/100).

Passing the exam is as much about exam technique as it about knowing the law and how to apply it. Our course (and homework) contains lots of scenario-based exercises which are designed to teach delegates how to answer the key points of a question within the time available in the exam. Each exercise/homework is further discussed in a group setting before a suggested answer is agreed upon.

We also hold a live online revision session, which allows delegates to ask the trainer to go over key areas of the syllabus and/or more sample questions. There is also a test at the end.

How To Pass

Don’t be too worried about the exam. You will be taught by a very experienced trainer who himself has passed the exam with a distinction. But in the end your success will depend on the hard work you are willing to put in. Timely attendance is essential as well as the doing the homework and taking an active part in discussions. We also find that candidates who pass the mock exam pass the real thing. Therefore revision for the mock is essential. Those who learn key facts as they go along rather than cram at the end inevitably tend to do well. (Read our other top tips here.)

A successful FOI candidate and a successful DP candidate have also shared their views on how to get the best out of the course on our blog.

Are you a Freedom of Information (FOI) practitioner wanting to give your career a boost? Or perhaps you are new to FOI wanting to quickly get up to speed with FOI law and practice? Now is the time to think about doing a BCS FOI course. Not only will it give you an in depth knowledge of FOI law and practice, it will allow you to prove your expertise to your colleagues through gaining an internationally recognised qualification. At Act Now we are dedicated to ensuring you get the best training and resources to help you achieve your potential. Don’t just take our word for it though.

Read what our previous delegates have said and one of the tutors. If you are feeling brave, have a go at our online BCS FOI test.

Our next BCS FOI Course starts next month in Manchester.

For Scottish colleagues we run the Act Now FOISA Practitioner Certificate which is endorsed by the Centre for Information Rights based at the University of Dundee.

Scottish Information Commissioner’s Annual Report

In September the Scottish Information Commissioner, Rosemary Agnew, published her annual report for 2013/14.  Ms Agnew enforces the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002 (FOISA). In her own words, “The report documents our achievements and challenges across the year, while also providing a snapshot of the wider picture of FOI in Scotland.”

Key facts are as follows:

  • Appeals to the Commissioner fell slightly during 2013/14, with 578 appeals received compared to 594 in 2012/13.  The slight fall appears to be due to a fall in the number of appeals made because an authority had failed to respond within the statutory time limits.
  • The Commissioner received the highest number of enquiries to date, at 2,008.  This was an 11% rise on last year.
  • 62% of appeals were from members of the public.
  • In 67% of decisions the Commissioner found wholly or partly in favour of the requester.
  • Public awareness of FOISA in Scotland is at 78%.
  • Scottish public authorities reported that they received over 60,000 FOISA requests in 2013/14.
  • 75% of appeals took less than 4 months to resolve.
  • There were no appeals to the Court of Session against decisions issued by the Commissioner in 2013/14.
  • The Commissioner launched a new programme of regional “roadshows” , which saw the Commissioner and her staff deliver FOISA training to over 200 participants from a range of backgrounds.

In an excellent example of Open Data, the Commissioner has also published detailed information on the appeals received since 2005, broken down by public authority, region and sector, in Excel spreadsheets on her website.

The Commissioner is currently working on a Special Report on the scope of FOISA and whether all the right organisations are covered. The report will be laid in the Scottish Parliament in early 2015, to coincide with the 10th anniversary of the Act coming into force.

If you are new to FOI in Scotland or want to boost your career through gaining a qualification, our FOISA Practitioner Certificate  is ideal for you. The four day course is endorsed by the Centre for FOI , based at Dundee University.

If you’re considering enrolling on the course, what can you expect? Read what the tutor has to say and have a go at the FOISA test.

The @BCS FOI Certificate Gives You Wings!

Are you a Freedom of Information (FOI) practitioner wanting to give your career a boost? Or perhaps you are new to FOI wanting to quickly get up to speed with FOI law and practice?

The British Computer Society’s (BCS) Certificate in Freedom of Information (formerly ISEB) is now firmly established as one of the premier qualifications in FOI. Backed by the BCS, it is internationally recognised and increasingly mentioned as a desirable qualification in FOI Officer job vacancies. Sometimes it is even stated as a requirement.

Act Now has been running the BCS FOI course for many years. I am the main FOI trainer although, the increasing popularity of our course means that, Tim Turner and Paul Gibbons also deliver this course from time to time.

Our course is aimed at anyone working in the FOI area, such as information managers, FOI practitioners, information governance officers, data protection officers, press officers and lawyers advising on information law issues. No prior knowledge is assumed although it always helps to have some experience of dealing with FOI requests. Our course runs over several weeks (one day per week) rather than being crammed into a few days. This allows delegates to get to know each other and benefit from their respective experience and knowledge. Often friendships are forged which continue to be of mutual assistance well after the course has ended.

Online Resource Lab

What makes the Act Now BCS FOI course unique is that we have a full online Resource Lab, which compliments the face-to-face teaching and course materials. Delegates can watch over 5 hours of videos on various aspects of the syllabus. Most videos are linked to an online quiz allowing delegates to test their knowledge at the end. There are also many standalone quizzes as well as links to ICO guides and other useful reference documents in the Resource Lab. This means that candidates have a full resource library which they can access at anytime to back up what they learnt on the course or to catch up if they fell asleep in the afternoon after a good lunch! Our courses are at five star (city centre) hotels so the latter is always a possibility.

The Exam!

The course is assessed through a three hour scenario based, closed book written exam which consists of:

– Part A: 10 multiple choice questions (1 mark each)
– Part B: 8 compulsory short narrative questions (5 marks each)
– Part C: 6 questions – a compulsory case study (20 marks each) plus two other essay questions (15 marks each)

The pass mark is 50% (50/100) and the distinction mark is 80% (80/100).

Passing the exam is as much about exam technique as it about knowing the law and how to apply it. Our course (and homework) contains lots of scenario-based exercises which are designed to teach delegates how to answer the key points of a question within the time available in the exam. Each exercise/homework is further discussed in a group setting before a suggested answer is agreed upon.

We also hold a live online revision session, which allows delegates to ask the trainer to go over key areas of the syllabus and/or more sample questions. There is also a test at the end.

How To Pass

Don’t be too worried about the exam. You will be taught by a very experienced trainer who himself has passed the exam with a distinction. But in the end your success will depend on the hard work you are willing to put in. Timely attendance is essential as well as the doing the homework and taking an active part in discussions. We also find that candidates who pass the mock exam pass the real thing. Therefore revision for the mock is essential. Those who learn key facts as they go along rather than cram at the end inevitably tend to do well. (Read our other top tips here.)

A successful FOI candidate and a successful DP candidate have also shared their views on how to get the best out of the course on our blog.

90% Pass Rate

2014 is on course to be our most successful year delivering the BCS FOI course. So far 52 of our delegates have sat the exam. Out of these 47 passed (of which one achieved a distinction). This gives us a pass rate thus far of just over 90%!

Now is the time to think about doing a BCS FOI course. Not only will it give you an in depth knowledge of FOI law and practice, it will allow you to prove your expertise to your colleagues through gaining an internationally recognised qualification. At Act Now we are dedicated to ensuring you get the best training and resources to help you achieve your potential. Don’t just take our word for it though. Read what our: previous delegates have said. If you are feeling brave, have a go at our online BCS FOI test.

Ibrahim Hasan is a solicitor and director of Act Now Training. For Scottish colleagues we run the Act Now FOISA Practitioner Certificate which is endorsed by the Centre for Information Rights based at the University of Dundee.

BCS You’re Worth It

If you’re a Data Protection and/or Freedom of Information Practitioner you may be thinking about obtaining one or both of the BCS qualifications (previously known as ISEB) offered by Act Now Training. This was my situation just a couple of years ago. Back in January 2013 I successfully sat the Data Protection examination.

Fast forward 18 months, and not only have I now sat the FOI equivalent, but I’m also tutoring both courses. That’s a quick turnaround, which inevitably affects the way I approach the running of the course, as we’ll see.

There were a few reasons I had put off doing the BCS qualifications for so long, despite having worked as an FOI and Data Protection Officer for much of the last decade. The main one was that I already had a qualification, having completed Northumbria University’s excellent LLM distance learning programme in 2008. It was hard work and in all honesty, I was reluctant to commit to another course without good reason.

But over time, those reasons started to stack up. Job advertisements increasingly cited requirements for BCS qualifications. The LLM had been more academic in its approach, and I wanted a more practical refresher. As my profile as a blogger and commentator on information rights grew, I was concerned that people might question my expertise if I didn’t hold a qualification that was so widely recognised in the industry. And I knew that if I was going to take the leap as a full-time trainer, I would need to have both qualifications to be able to tutor them.

The latter in particular may not be relevant to you. But if you want a thorough grounding in these subjects, and a formal qualification, at a fraction of the cost of most academic courses, then a BCS programme is for you. And when I say, thorough, I mean it. Despite having completed an LLM and having years of experience in both subjects, I really did learn a lot from both programmes. In our jobs we tend to become familiar with certain aspects that are relevant to our specific organisation. So there are whole parts of the DPA and FOIA that we never have to know about. But that might change if you want another job, or the circumstances of your employer or your responsibilities change. Equally, it’s very easy to assume that you know what you should be doing, and to merrily carry on doing it that way for years in blissful ignorance…until the day you get found out. Or you take the BCS programme and the scales fall from your eyes (as they did from mine on at least one occasion).

As you would expect from such a respected qualification, it is no walkover. The exams are three hours long, and involve multiple-choice questions, but also three or four essays. In all honesty, when I did the exams, I failed to finish all the questions. If, like me, you haven’t done an exam for a decade or two, it can be a daunting prospect.

That’s why – I like to think, anyway – it can be really useful to have a tutor who’s been through the process so recently. I know the fear and sympathise. I can walk you through how I dealt with it in practice. Take essays, for example – how do you structure an essay about notification under DPA? What do you include? What do you leave out? How do you get as much down as possible in three hours? I can tell you what it’s actually like when you walk in the room, and how I coped – and passed.

As well as enhancing your knowledge and putting you in the position to pass an exam, the other benefit of the BCS programmes run by Act Now Training is that they are run over several weeks. What this means is that you have time between each group session to absorb the learning from the previous week and do the required study. It also means that you get to know your fellow delegates well over the five or six weeks, and benefit from their experience and knowledge. It’s one thing to hear what the law says, and what your tutor thinks, but it adds an entirely new dimension to your understanding when you can hear how others have dealt with issues they’ve encountered in a wide variety of organisations from across the public and private sectors (the latter more especially on the BCS DP programme). For example, you will learn about the Information Commissioner’s enforcement powers on the DP programme, but in one recent programme I tutored, we all benefitted from hearing what it was like in practice to be on the receiving end of a monetary penalty notice, and what lessons the receiving authority had learnt from that experience.

Coupled with the face-to-face learning, Act Now’s BCS courses include a live online revision session and access to an online resources lab, which contains, amongst other things, over ten hours of revision videos and over twenty quizzes (both unique to Act Now). Try the sample online test.

If you choose to do a BCS qualification, I will do my utmost to guide you and support you through to a successful conclusion. I look forward to meeting you.

Paul Gibbons is a consultant and trainer in information rights and information management. He has been working in this field for 20 years. There are a handful of places left on our BCS Courses (More here). Read successful BCS candidates’ top tips here.

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