Ruth Silver

Ruth Silver Reflects on Angela Sanders New FETL Report

Prison education has typically been a low priority, both within the justice system and for education in the UK. It is, as I have written elsewhere, the poor relation in the family of further education provision, and, where excellence exists – and exist it does – it is usually down to the determination of a few committed individuals prepared to swim against the tide rather than any deliberate intervention at the level of national policy.

At the same, the British prison system is under considerable strain, overcrowded and under-funded, and, not unlike further education, subject to reform after reform and regular ministerial churn. In these circumstances, and with the latest round of reforms holding out the promise of greater discretion for prison governors, it is surely timely to reconsider the role of prison education and to find new and better ways to realise its potential in reducing reoffending and supporting ex-offenders in reintegrating into society.

It was against this background that the Further Education Trust for Leadership (FETL) agreed to fund the Prisoner Learning Alliance (PLA) to carry out a project on the leadership of prison education. FETL and PLA launched the project’s final report "Leadership in prison education: Meeting the challenges of the new system" before an invited audience of experts and stakeholders at Wandsworth Prison, in London, yesterday (19 Feb).

Written by consultant Angela Sanders, the report draws on interviews with prison leaders at 10 prisons to examine the leadership challenge in prison education, with particular regard to new structures and policy directives. It asks whether prison leaders have access to the training they need and makes a number of recommendations intended to improve and support education in prisons.

One interesting finding is that while prison governors report regular access to training and development, opportunities for heads of reducing reoffending are much more limited, with an expectation that they will learn on the job. This is somewhat troubling. While, as the report acknowledges, governors are key to ‘leading a learning culture’, the creation of a learning culture also demands a collaborative, dispersed approach to leadership, and engaged, knowledgeable staff at every level of institutional life. The report’s recommendation to increase training and development for staff is a welcome first step.

The report also calls for a national strategy for strengthening links with further education. I am not sure a strategy is the right way to go, though prison education should certainly be part of an integrated, holistic approach to adult education, but it is clear that there are opportunities for more partnership in this area. As Tom Schuller, Chair of PLA, said at the launch: ‘The links between prison education and further education need to be strengthened. I hope this report provides a platform for the future and for more effective partnership between prison education and FE.’ I hope that this project will be the start of more collaborative thinking involving both FE and prison education leaders.

Such conversations are badly needed, ideally as part of a wider re-evaluation of lifelong learning. I suspect the creation of culture of learning within prisons will require a substantial change of tack, at every level of policy, both within institutions and at the level of national government. This, for the moment at least, remains a remote prospect. Nevertheless, this report is a very welcome and useful attempt to frame the debate.

Dame Ruth Silver is President of the Further Education Trust for Leadership

FETL Conclusions

Prison education is in an obviously transitional phase, as the new arrangements bed down.

This report has illuminated the challenges facing those with responsibility for the implementation of the system, at different levels.

Many of these challenges are very specific to the prison system, as is clear from the detail set out earlier. But there is clear congruence between these challenges and the ones facing leaders in the wider FE sector.

Notable among these are:

  • The fundamental issue of adequate funding.
  • Managing contractual work which is often both complex and short-term.
  • Developing professional skills in educational staff, including for senior leaders.
  • Catering for diversity in the learner population.
  • Developing and managing partnerships.

Funding for prison education has not increased since 2013 and it is disappointing that this important part of rehabilitation still does not have sufficient resource.The PEF appears to have decreased on-the-ground resource in many areas.Arrangements for managing finances under the PEF contract are creating some challenges.The Treasury and MoJ review of education provision is urgently needed.



You may also be interested in these articles:

Sponsored Video


Upcoming FE Events

Advertiser Skyscrapers

Newsroom Activity

Levelling Up Learning through Technology – A Ufi...

Levelling Up Learning through Technology – A Ufi VocTech Trust’s Whitepaper - EdTech Update April 28, 2021How can digital solutions improve outcomes...

FE News: The Future of Education News Channel had a status update on Twitter yesterday

RT @FENews: Flexi-jobs, ATAS and Apprenticeships: OverviewFollowing recent consultations by the Department for Education, a new flexi-jobs.…
View Original Tweet

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 Jan 2021, FE News had over 173,000 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, putting us in the top 2,000 websites in the UK.

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