Sally Alexander - Principal: Milton Keynes College (Prison Services)

Earlier this week, I shared a radio studio with a colleague from HMPPS who was explaining the work of the New Futures Network (NFN), a key driver within the Ministry of Justice’s Education and Employment Strategy for adult prisoners, which links employers and prisoners to find staff for one and work for the other.

I was struck by the way the presenter on the show was clearly convinced by the argument that getting offenders into work was a no brainer in terms of its value to us all.

I couldn’t help thinking the public as a whole would be similarly convinced if they understood the true value of getting former prisoners back into work.

More than three hundred leading companies are now signed up with the NFN, particularly in the fields of construction and catering where labour shortages are reaching critical levels.

Those companies are seeing how employing ex-offenders is not just a questions of doing good but of hard-nosed economic benefit to their businesses.

The evidence shows they’re saving on recruitment costs and taking on workers who are, in many instances, more reliable, more committed and more likely to stay with an employer for longer.

For ex-offenders, employment is a golden opportunity to get their lives back on track and in my experience they are generally determined to make the most of these chances.

The start of a wider relaxation of the rules

This is very much the direction of current public policy as was recently demonstrated by the announcement of the relaxation of the rules round eligibility for ROTL (Release on Temporary Licence), particularly in the female estate and open prisons.

As an education provider for prisoners of some experience, we at Milton Keynes College very much hope this will be the start of a wider relaxation of the rules, eventually seeing offenders across the wider estate also given this opportunity, as we have seen first-hand how access to real work opportunities on temporary release can enable prisoners to have a real job waiting for them at the end of their sentence.

Milton Keynes College has helped more than 700 ex-offenders into work and that’s a number of which we’re extremely proud. Obviously, the greater availability of ROTL the greater the potential risk, but research suggests that overall, society will benefit in terms of crime prevention.

Caution is understandable; however, there is a real interest now in seeing a wider use of this approach to support prisoners to resettle on release from custody.

ROTL also helps soon-to-be released offenders reconnect with their families and communities while NFN helps join them up with potential employers.


Both play a major role in helping people coming out of prison to resettle back into society, and the evidence suggests that finding work is a key factor in reducing reoffending.

The Education and Employment Strategy

The Education and Employment Strategy also highlights a desire to introduce the concept of apprenticeship pathways into custody. However, if we were able to revisit the rules, we could offer apprenticeships in our prisons, just as we deliver other fully recognised vocational programmes of study.

Currently, to qualify for an apprenticeship an individual must have a contract of employment. Prisoners are not allowed to have such contracts because they are serving prisoners, and so are not eligible to become apprentices until they have been released.

If these rules were relaxed, learners in custody could start or even complete a full apprenticeship while serving their sentences making them exponentially more likely to find work on release.

Taking this one step further, why can’t prisons become centres of excellence for particular areas of learning – one could specialise in construction, another hairdressing or catering?

Prisoners considered suitable could even apply to be moved to an establishment with that specific expertise while they carry out their training.

A recent paper published by ERSA (Employment Related Services Association) highlights recent work carried out by the Prisoner Apprenticeship Pathways Working Group, a team of interested stakeholders, to move this agenda forwards.

Such a move would also help the Government to reach its own target of getting three million people into apprenticeships.  

High quality educational provision linked to real employment opportunities will have a significant impact on reducing reoffending

Government views on prison education have waxed and waned over the years but the current Education and Employment Strategy clearly points to a belief that high quality educational provision linked to real employment opportunities will have a significant impact on reducing reoffending.

It will take courage to implement the kind of changes needed, but the rewards could be transformational for the criminal justice system.

Let’s be joined up; let’s coordinate the work of prison educators and related stakeholders in custody and the changes to the rules on ROTL and make apprenticeships available, which would have a really positive impact on our society with reduced crime, falling prisoner numbers, and fewer skills shortages.

Sally Alexander - Principal: Milton Keynes College (Prison Services)

You may also be interested in these articles:


Newsroom Activity

Kerry Boffey added a new event 1 hour

Self-Assessment, validating your provision.

Join Peter Stacey for this informative and engaging session, Self -assessment, the process the accuracy of judgement, clear validation through to...

  • Friday, 11 September 2020 10:30 AM
  • On-line. Longdon on Tern

Latest Education News

Further Education News

The FE News Channel gives you the latest education news and updates on emerging education strategies and the #FutureofEducation and the #FutureofWork.

Providing trustworthy and positive Further Education news and views since 2003, we are a digital news channel with a mixture of written word articles, podcasts and videos. Our specialisation is providing you with a mixture of the latest education news, our stance is always positive, sector building and sharing different perspectives and views from thought leaders, to provide you with a think tank of new ideas and solutions to bring the education sector together and come up with new innovative solutions and ideas.

FE News publish exclusive peer to peer thought leadership articles from our feature writers, as well as user generated content across our network of over 3000 Newsrooms, offering multiple sources of the latest education news across the Education and Employability sectors.

FE News also broadcast live events, podcasts with leading experts and thought leaders, webinars, video interviews and Further Education news bulletins so you receive the latest developments in Skills News and across the Apprenticeship, Further Education and Employability sectors.

Every week FE News has over 200 articles and new pieces of content per week. We are a news channel providing the latest Further Education News, giving insight from multiple sources on the latest education policy developments, latest strategies, through to our thought leaders who provide blue sky thinking strategy, best practice and innovation to help look into the future developments for education and the future of work.

In May 2020, FE News had over 120,000 unique visitors according to Google Analytics and over 200 new pieces of news content every week, from thought leadership articles, to the latest education news via written word, podcasts, video to press releases from across the sector.

We thought it would be helpful to explain how we tier our latest education news content and how you can get involved and understand how you can read the latest daily Further Education news and how we structure our FE Week of content:

Main Features

Our main features are exclusive and are thought leadership articles and blue sky thinking with experts writing peer to peer news articles about the future of education and the future of work. The focus is solution led thought leadership, sharing best practice, innovation and emerging strategy. These are often articles about the future of education and the future of work, they often then create future education news articles. We limit our main features to a maximum of 20 per week, as they are often about new concepts and new thought processes. Our main features are also exclusive articles responding to the latest education news, maybe an insight from an expert into a policy announcement or response to an education think tank report or a white paper.

FE Voices

FE Voices was originally set up as a section on FE News to give a voice back to the sector. As we now have over 3,000 newsrooms and contributors, FE Voices are usually thought leadership articles, they don’t necessarily have to be exclusive, but usually are, they are slightly shorter than Main Features. FE Voices can include more mixed media with the Further Education News articles, such as embedded podcasts and videos. Our sector response articles asking for different comments and opinions to education policy announcements or responding to a report of white paper are usually held in the FE Voices section. If we have a live podcast in an evening or a radio show such as SkillsWorldLive radio show, the next morning we place the FE podcast recording in the FE Voices section.

Sector News

In sector news we have a blend of content from Press Releases, education resources, reports, education research, white papers from a range of contributors. We have a lot of positive education news articles from colleges, awarding organisations and Apprenticeship Training Providers, press releases from DfE to Think Tanks giving the overview of a report, through to helpful resources to help you with delivering education strategies to your learners and students.


We have a range of education podcasts on FE News, from hour long full production FE podcasts such as SkillsWorldLive in conjunction with the Federation of Awarding Bodies, to weekly podcasts from experts and thought leaders, providing advice and guidance to leaders. FE News also record podcasts at conferences and events, giving you one on one podcasts with education and skills experts on the latest strategies and developments.

We have over 150 education podcasts on FE News, ranging from EdTech podcasts with experts discussing Education 4.0 and how technology is complimenting and transforming education, to podcasts with experts discussing education research, the future of work, how to develop skills systems for jobs of the future to interviews with the Apprenticeship and Skills Minister.

We record our own exclusive FE News podcasts, work in conjunction with sector partners such as FAB to create weekly podcasts and daily education podcasts, through to working with sector leaders creating exclusive education news podcasts.

Education Video Interviews

FE News have over 700 FE Video interviews and have been recording education video interviews with experts for over 12 years. These are usually vox pop video interviews with experts across education and work, discussing blue sky thinking ideas and views about the future of education and work.


FE News has a free events calendar to check out the latest conferences, webinars and events to keep up to date with the latest education news and strategies.

FE Newsrooms

The FE Newsroom is home to your content if you are a FE News contributor. It also help the audience develop relationship with either you as an individual or your organisation as they can click through and ‘box set’ consume all of your previous thought leadership articles, latest education news press releases, videos and education podcasts.

Do you want to contribute, share your ideas or vision or share a press release?

If you want to write a thought leadership article, share your ideas and vision for the future of education or the future of work, write a press release sharing the latest education news or contribute to a podcast, first of all you need to set up a FE Newsroom login (which is free): once the team have approved your newsroom (all content, newsrooms are all approved by a member of the FE News team- no robots are used in this process!), you can then start adding content (again all articles, videos and podcasts are all approved by the FE News editorial team before they go live on FE News). As all newsrooms and content are approved by the FE News team, there will be a slight delay on the team being able to review and approve content.

 RSS IconRSS Feed Selection Page