From education to employment

Joined Up Thinking and The Way Forward?

As the new pilot schemes of the Offenders” Learning and Skills Service begin their one year development period, FE News reporter Michael Lloydlooks at how it is hoped that they will serve to raise basic skills and cut reoffending.

Consistency and Continuity

One of the main goals of the new programme from theOffenders Learning and Skills Unit (OLSU) is to establish some form of consistency and continuity in the provision of prison education from institution to institution and through to the probation services. It is hoped that this will ensure that those prisoners who take up the offer of education are able to pursue their studies as they move around the system.

This would mark a significant step forward. Under the previous model, many prisoners became lost in the system and had their courses of study disrupted or abandoned due to the fact that they were moved to a different area or service. There was a serious lack of “joined-up thinking” throughout the penal education system, but even though lead providers are taking regional responsibility for delivery, this does not seem to address the problem of prisoners who move around the system geographically.

However, Ms Jayne Dooley, Adult Team Manager of the Learning and Skills Council (LSC) in Lancashire, is confident that the new system will make improvements at a local and regional level: “It is true that all prisons, by their very nature, are made up of a partly transient population, but the majority of inmates who begin their sentence in Lancashire do tend to finish their sentence in our care. This programme will help them to continue their education through probation and beyond.”

Flexible Approach

Literacy, language and numeracy will continue to be central to the curriculum which is delivered in prisons under the new lead provider system, but even though the vast majority of prisoners require this focus, does the onus placed upon basic skills which seems to be the focus of the Government’s strategy at the present time exclude the, admittedly small, number of prisoners who are in position to study at a more advanced level?

Ms Dooley stressed the employer ““ focused aspect of the project, saying: “We focus upon skills that employers say that they want. As most of the inmates that we have contact with will be released into the community locally, we consult local business and industry to establish the skills and knowledge that they require.

“These recommendations, coupled with our commitment to raising the basic skills of inmates (Lancaster and Morecambe College will be required to raise all offenders reading skills to NVQ Level 2) will play a large role in dictating the programme we implement but there will be more advanced level of study available for the prisoners who might wish to pursue it.”


But how much of a difference will this make? With the recent publication of a report from the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development finding that 60% of employers immediately exclude ex-offenders or those with a history of drug abuse or long-term sickness from the recruitment process, it is unlikely that the implication of the government’s manifesto commitments to improve the lot of the nations convicts through improved education will have any significant impact upon levels of offender recidivism.

Home Office data reveals that approximately 78% of people sentenced to immediate custody in 2003 had committed non-violent offences (i.e. offences that did not involve violence, sex or robbery). As such, it might be more advantageous to look at why our courts are dispensing such harsh sentences, resulting in an ever-escalating prison population whose chances of rehabilitation might be more effected by the stigma of a prison sentence as opposed to a wanting education.

Michael Lloyd

Read Part 1 of Michael Llloyd’s look at OSLU and offender education by clicking here, or Part 2 by clicking here!

Recidivism? Tell us about it in the FE Blog

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