From education to employment

Stability Needed for Prison Educators to Bring Offenders into Work, says NATFHE

NATFHE, the UK’s University and College Lecturers” Union, has responded to the green paper on offender skills recently released by calling attention to the lack of stability in prison education.

The report, which was produced jointly by the Home Office, the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) and the Department for Education and Skills (DfES), seeks to move more offenders back into the workforce in bid to cut re ““ offending rates. It is believed that the cost of crime per year amounts to £11 billion per year. This is more than the entire budget allocation for FE that is allocated through the Learning and Skills Council (LSC).

Unsung Heroes

Prison educators have received greater attention in the past year through the transfer of responsibility for this provision to the DfES. A report prepared in March 2005, entitled Prison Education and formulated by the House of Commons Education and Skills Committee sought to “shine a light on a subject that has been a low priority for both Government and the general public.” The same report called prison educators “unacceptable”, and described prison educators as “unsung heroes” in submissions to this select committee.

This report called for greater clarity in prison education provision, saying: “Prison education should be part of a wider approach to reduce recidivism through the rehabilitation of prisoners.” It found a great deal of uncertainty in delivery models, both nationally and locally. The new report that was published last week seeks to focus on providing offenders with the skills they require to enter the workforce, thus reducing the risk of reoffending.

NATFHE Respond for Stability

NATFHE have responded positively to this initiative, but have at the same time warned that the lack of stable employment amongst prison educators would make it difficult to attract and retain the services of the best educators. Christiane Ohsan, NATFHE national official representing prison educators, said: “Speeding up ex-offender employment will require a solution to this.”

NATFHE represent the prison educators of Britain, and she continued on this theme, saying: “Many prison educators will welcome the recognition which this paper gives to the importance of their work. There is a growing understanding that education is the key to reducing reoffending rates. But prison educators require much greater support and stability of employment.

“Currently, the vast majority of prison educators are employed part-time on insecure contracts and are constantly facing distractions and pressures from tendering and recontracting processes which interfere with their efforts to provide a professional service.”

Essentially this green paper has been welcomed, but the obvious issues of pay and job security will continue to have a negative impact unless they are addressed, on the national and not the local level.

Jethro Marsh

Should the prison educators be better paid and more secure in their jobs? You tell us in the FE Blog

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