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Review of Prison Education Consultation Event

Ben Rockliffe -Head of Business and Strategy

On 15 December 2015 I attended a stakeholder consultation event as part of Dame Sally Coates Review of Education in Prison. This is a brief overview of the scope of the review, why we were invited, the key themes that seem to be emerging in the review and the timescales for its completion.

Dame Sally has been tasked by the current Justice Secretary, Michael Gove, with reviewing the prison education system to ensure there are the right incentives for prisoners to learn and for prison staff to make sure that education is properly prioritised.

Open Awards is a leading provider of qualifications for the offender learning sector. We work with several OLASS (Offenders' Learning and Skills Service) contract holders to support learners in, or recently released from, custody to develop skills to help them into sustainable employment. We were invited to the event to work with other stakeholders to identify issues in the current system.

In preparation for the event we consulted with our partners to make sure we could reflect their views.

Dame Sally reported that the emerging themes coming out of the review so far are:

  • Prisons have a lack of flexibility to offer the courses they want, particularly above Level 2, and for those serving longer sentences

  • Governors would like less restrictions in terms of what can be funded

  • There are a lot of barriers to the use of ICT in custodial settings and these need to be overcome to make learning more relevant

  • Through the gate (when learners transition from prison to release) progression and tracking needs to be improved

  • More needs to be done to attract high quality professionals into teaching in prisons

These aligned to the views that were fed back from Open Awards and the room including:

  • The system needs more stability

  • Funding rules need to be adapted so they fit the prison context and allow learners to achieve at higher levels

  • Learners need a broad and balanced curriculum, which includes a strong element of PSD (Personal Social Development)

  • Information systems need to support learners transition from one prison to another without repeating or missing out on learning

Dame Sally will publish an interim report in January 2016 followed by a final report with recommendations in March 2016.

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