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Prisoners are learning in "Victorian" classrooms with funding a "race to the bottom" - educators say

23 May 2022

  • Colleges are calling for proper funding for prison education programmes to provide prisoners with the education and training needed to prepare them for successful reintegration into society and the world of work.
  • There continues to be a disconnect between the wider skills agenda, driven by the Department for Education and Number 10 and the Ministry of Justice which has its own separate plans for prison education.

The current funding model for prison education is leading to a "race to the bottom" while prisoners are being taught in unfit, antiquated classrooms, educators have said.

The Association of Colleges has today published a new report The Vision for Prison Education - A provider perspective detailing the role the further education sector can play in reforming prison education for the 21st century.

This timely intervention follows the House of Commons Education Select Committee's recent report which urges the Government to take action to improve the current system, as part of its inquiry into prison education. Ministers are due to respond to the committee's findings in June.

The AoC report details the experiences of providers working in prisons and highlights the challenges they face while offering solutions which would support the rehabilitation of offenders.

David Hughes, Chief Executive of the Association of Colleges, said: “Prison education is one of the most powerful tools available in the justice system to support offenders and reduce reoffending. When it doesn’t work it’s the public who suffer as well as the offenders.

“Colleges are crucial to the success of a reformed system. Our sector vision for prison education is for a properly funded service to bring it into line with general further education and apprenticeships, as set out in the Skills for Jobs white paper, to provide prisoners with education and training which prepares them for successful reintegration into society and the world of work.

“This must, however, recognise that prisoners have often been failed by education first time around – with 40% having been excluded from school and half with a reading age of 11 on entry to prison. As a second chance to re-engage with learning, prisoners have additional support needs that must be accounted for and funded properly".