From education to employment

Ofsted praises ‘strong’ education and vocational training as HMP/YOI Thorn Cross rated ‘good’

‘Impressive range’ of work and education opportunities praised by inspectors, who also recognised Novus’ classroom-based education and vocational training

Leading prison education provider Novus has been praised for its “consistently good” teaching and effective curriculum planning to support prisoners’ career aspirations, as part of an inspection which rated the provision at HMP/YOI Thorn Cross near Warrington as ‘Good’.

The ‘Good’ rating for overall effectiveness is the culmination of a concerted and collaborative effort across HMP/YOI Thorn Cross to help ensure prisoners have the best possible opportunity to gain the skills that are so crucial to breaking cycles of reoffending. This has been achieved in a prison education environment where many learners have had a previous negative experience of education. Half of prisoners in the UK have neurodivergent needs and 57% of adult prisoners have literacy levels below those expected of an 11 year old.

In its report Ofsted highlighted the collaboration between leaders at the Cheshire prison and Novus to deliver a “clear and ambitious vision for education, skills and work in the prison”. “Their goal was to provide prisoners with the knowledge, skills and behaviours that they needed to gain emplo;yment on release. Their strategy was for prisoners to progress from education to work within the prison, and finally to work in the community,” it added.

The findings further underline the vital role that a high-quality prison education can play in rehabilitating prisoners and ensuring the offenders develop skills that lead to employment or education on release, reducing the likelihood of reoffending. 

Within the report, Ofsted specifically recognised the work that Novus carries out in helping learners acquire the skills they will require for future employment, highlighting work in curriculum areas such as plastering, painting and decorating, catering and hospitality. The report described teaching standards as “consistently good”, adding:

“Novus provided strong classroom-based education and vocational training in workshops. In education classes, the quality of teaching was strong in English, mathematics, business, art and information technology. Well-qualified teachers were effective in planning the curriculum. They adapted their approach to the starting points of prisoners and to meet their interests and career plans.”

Ofsted also acknowledged the work done to assess learners’ needs, monitor progress made and offer tailored support. Prisoners “made prompt progress”, with most learners who completed a course going on to achieve their qualifications.

Commenting on the report, Novus Managing Director Peter Cox commented:

“At Novus, we have made quality provision our main priority and it is good to see this recognised by Ofsted. It was equally encouraging to see the work we do around employability, which focuses on ensuring learners acquire the skills they will need to secure employment upon release, recognised in the report which can provide a blueprint for further Ofsted ‘Good’ ratings across the prison estate.

“The report at HMP/YOI Thorn Cross is testament to the collaborative and supportive environment within the prison, making education provision a real priority for prisoners within the establishment. This would not have been possible without the dedication of colleagues across Novus, HMPPS and our partners who have all worked together to transform the futures of the people at HMP & YOI Thorn Cross. “

A full copy of the report is available here.

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