The University and College Union (UCU) has today (Thursday) welcomed calls from the Justice Select Committee for more stable prison education contracts and increased training for prison governors, but said bolder reform is needed to ensure prison educators are able to do their jobs effectively.

The union was commenting on the committee’s report on prison governance, which highlighted concerns about new one-year ‘Dynamic Purchasing System’ contracts for prison education. UCU said the uncertainty created by constant retendering was “bad for staff and bad for prisoners” and welcomed the committee’s recommendations for longer, more stable contracts and improved accountability.

UCU said the call for more training for prison governors was also welcome, but said bolder reform was needed to ensure that prison educators could do their jobs effectively. It said the process of competitive tendering for prison education diverted resource away from the front line and made it harder for providers to retain staff and invest in their development. The union called for a wider review of how prison education is delivered to ensure the government’s approach is meeting the needs of prisoners and education staff.

UCU general secretary, Jo Grady, said:

‘The Committee is right to recognise that short-term contracts for prison education are bad for staff and bad for prisoners. The uncertainty of constant re-tendering makes it harder for experienced and committed education staff to be retained. We welcome the call for longer contracts and improved accountability so there is more stability in how prison education is delivered.

‘While the call for more training for prison governors is also welcome, we need bolder reform if we’re going to ensure prison educators can do their jobs effectively. Prison educators are constantly being asked to do more with less, and competitive tendering diverts vital resource away from the front line. It also makes it harder for providers to invest in staff development. We need a wider review of how prison education is delivered so we can ensure the government’s approach is meeting the needs of staff and prisoners alike.’

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