From education to employment

Intensive Maths and English pilot lessons for prisoners

The government yesterday announced the implementation of Maths and English lessons in UK prisons, based on the style and rubric of the intensive courses delivered by The Royal Navy, Army, and Royal Air Force.

The course consists of 35 hours of lessons in the space of one week, with further training for those who need it. Skills Minister John Hayes stated that lessons will be “adapted to the prison environment”, in so far as being inserted into a prisoner’s already existing vocational courses, and taught at the start of the sentences to avoid course disruption.

The initiative was created by BIS and the National Institute of Adult Continuing Education (NIACE) to see how effective the Armed Forces intensive course model would fare in the prison environment. Lessons are said to be delivered through the collaboration of governors and prison education providers.

“This pilot is about ensuring prisoners are more likely to work than commit crime when they leave,” said Hayes.

Minister Crispin Blunt said: “If we can improve prisoners’ literacy and numeracy levels it will improve their chances of getting a job following release”.

According to Blunt, “keeping employment is a key factor in helping to reduce re-offending”, which costs between £9.5 billion to £13 billion a year.

The government is basing the scheme on evidence from the Armed Forces Longitudinal Study by NIACE, which assessed how numeracy and literacy skills affect the personal and professional development of members of the armed forces, and their effectiveness at work. The intensive course is being applied to the prison environment in the hope that prisoners will display the same personal and professional development in their free lives.

Part of The Ministry of Justice’s longitudinal study, called Surveying Prisoner Crime Reduction, which surveyed 4000 new inmates, asked what prisoners would specifically require in order to prevent them from reoffending. The results revealed that prisoners valued help in finding employment, qualifications, and work related skills highest upon reentering society.

This means that the government will be spending money to educate prisoners in order to reduce the taxes instated to imprison re-offenders and many more new offenders.

The government expects to see a reduction in the crime of reoffenders, although this scheme does nothing to prevent the acts of first time offenders. It is reasonable to assume that the public will see this as an unfair opportunity given by the law and at the expense of the public, to those who have not obeyed the law, perhaps even multiple times.

It should also be considered that the money for this scheme is being spent reactively not proactively, when better training at compulsory school level could be an option, where those prisoners who had poor experiences of learning at school might not have offended given the right education.

The ‘right’ education could go some way to helping reoffenders but employment is a problem for all, and without the job availability, prisoners are in the same boat as the rest of us, except this time with a criminal record.

The pilot is due to take part in the prisons of Manchester, Garth, Kirkham, Lancaster Farms, Styal and Altcourse.

Daisy Atkinson

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