Response to Coates Review of Prison Education

18 May 2016

Learning and Work Institute strongly welcome the direction of travel set out by the Secretary of State of Justice and this Review towards education being at the heart of the prison system. 

This review comes at a time when Ofsted inspection outcomes for learning and skills in prisons show declining standards and widespread poor quality, despite dedicated and hard-working staff trying to make the current system work. This is critical because there is a very clear link between good education in prison and being less likely to reoffend. The economic cost alone of reoffending stands at around £13billion, so we urge the government to implement much needed reforms to prison education. 

‘Unlocking Potential: A review of education in prisons’ provides more than thirty recommendations calling for changes to the way education in prisons is commissioned, planned and delivered, with a particular focus on prisoners with learning difficulties and/or disabilities and the use of technology and digital learning.

David Hughes, chief executive at Learning and Work Institute, said:

“We do not underestimate the challenge facing the prison system in improving standards and quality in prison education services. Our research in prison education over many years shows that where pockets of good practice exist, it is because flexibility in the types of courses provided, how they’re delivered and by whom have been tailored to the prison  and needs of learners. That’s why we support new powers for Prison Governors to directly commission education and look forward to supporting the pilots.

“I want to particularly welcome the recommendations around investment in prison digital infrastructure for learning. If learning is to be relevant and accessible, prisons should have the freedoms to use technology enhanced learning as a key tool in their education service.”

“I am pleased to see the report take on board our recommendations calling for a core basic skills curriculum; better support for prisoners with learning difficulties and disabilities and on in-cell digital learning. Dame Sally’s recommendations might appear radical, but they reflect an urgent need for change. ”

Learning and Work Institute has proudly provided research and development services to the prison education sector for over a decade. Our recent work has included developing and piloting a personal and social development curriculum in women’s prisons (which is reference in today’s report); Maths4Prisons, a peer mentoring scheme, in prisons since 2012 – this has included training for mentors, as well as education and vocational staff; and developing and testing innovative approaches to enabling young offenders to engage in traineeships, including a through the gate model that provides continuity of support.