Headlines: April 3rd, 2006

There is a new call to overhaul the system of education for prisoners after a year-long inquiry said it was unacceptable in its current state. The call has come from the Forum on Prisoner Education after a report from the House of Commons Education and Skills Select Committee.The Forum had presented written and oral evidence to the Committee, whose members also visited prisons on the Isle of Wight and in Reading and the Young Offenders Institution at Feltham as well as visiting overseas prisons.

The report concludes that less than a third of prisoners have access to education and that the concentration on basic skills is based on ‘little more than a hunch’ with no real evidence of its need or effects. They also found that 60 per-cent of education provision was inadequate by the standards of the Adult Learning Inspectorate and urged that Individual Learning Plans, linked to Sentence Plans, should be made a priority. Members were also concerned about the transfer of records between prisons, which they described as ‘disgraceful’

Steve Taylor, Director of the Forum on Prisoner Education said the Committee had produced an excellent report that consigned Government bluster to the dustbin. “We have long said that the unremitting diet of basic skills we currently see in prison education is based not on any real measure of individual need. We’re pleased to see that the Committee has agreed with us and has reinforced the value of education for its own sake,” he added.

He said it was now time for an overhaul of education for offenders to ensure that they were offered the same quality and level of education as learners in the community. “Education is a human right for all, and one that’s breached daily for too many prisoners,” said Mr. Taylor