From education to employment

One Year On, the Government Yet to Implement Recommendations of Select Committee

The Forum on Prisoner Education (FPE) have re ““ opened the prison education debate by publishing a report showing that the Government have failed to implement the recommendations of the House of Commons Education and Skills Committee.

The Committee published its” findings exactly one year ago today, finding that the state of prison education provision was “unacceptable”. The research conducted by the FPE has indicated that the Government’s approach in the interim has amounted to virtually ignoring the recommendations for reform. The FPE have called for “urgent action” to tackle the issue.

The Recommendations

The Committee published their report on the 31st of March, 2005, following their remit to “examine the Government’s proposals for improving education and training for prisoners.” The enquiry process took a total of nine months and saw expertise gathered from a number of other countries, including Norway, Finland and Canada. The committee made a total of fifty five recommendations.

Amongst these, one of the key areas deemed not to have been met by the FPE was the need “that education should be understood in “broader terms than just improving the employability of the prisoner”, and should therefore benefit from a broader curriculum. The FPE state that not only has this not been met, but that the Green Paper (entitled Reducing Reoffending Through Skills and Employment, published on the 15th December 2005) indicates a focus solely upon skills for work.

The focus upon basic skills training is attacked as well. The Committee found that the concentration on this form of education was “based on little more than a hunch”. The FPE have stated that no perceptible progress has been made towards researching the true skills requirements of offenders. More than that, the committee stated that some 60% of all prison education was judged to be “inadequate” by the Adult Learning Inspectorate (ALI).

FPE Respond

The FPE are committed to prison education as an important part of the prison programme. Their director, Steve Taylor, said: “We dont doubt that the Government wants to improve prisoner education, but we fail to see why some basic reforms are taking so long. Prisoners are still punished by lower pay for taking part in education than for work ““ it doesnt take a green paper to sort that out.”

Of the 55 recommendations, some 26 have had no action at all taken on them, according to the FPE, with only four being met. Mr. Taylor continued: “Government would close a failing school or college if improvements took this long, so why is it acceptable in prisons? They should return to the Committees recommendations and take urgent action.”

Offender education is one of the most effective tools in the fight against re – offending, and offers the opportunity to participate in society as a fully fledged member rather than as a criminal. That the Government should be keen on reducing the crime rate and the number of people in prisons whilst at the same time remaining intransigent on offender education is perplexing, and should be addressed as soon as possible.

Jethro Marsh

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