From education to employment

OCR presents Lewisham College with Top Award for Prison Literacy Project

Lewisham College’s Department of Trade Union Studies, in partnership with the Prison Officers Association and Belmarsh Prison, has won the Association of Colleges (AoC) Beacon OCR Award for Partnerships in Basic Skills.

The £5,000 award was presented to the college for its work in helping 140 prison officers at Belmarsh prison achieve a City & Guilds Level 1 literacy certificate. The Governor of Belmarsh Prison, Claudia Sturt, commented: “Belmarsh is an exciting and challenging place to work, and like any successful organisation it needs staff who are both motivated and skilled. We are extremely fortunate to have committed and generous partners to help us achieve this.”

Beacon Award for “Shining Examples”

The OCR Beacon Award for Partnerships in Basic Skills identifies “shining” examples of collaborative efforts between educational institutions and other organisations, in helping to raise levels of Basic Skills. The criterion for the award was devised to encourage colleges to highlight how they have creatively identified and provided opportunities to engage learners, and to outline the ways in which they have contributed to their continued progression.

In an attempt to overcome the traditional stigma attached to basic literacy learning, Lewisham College offered prison officers training in essential customer care skills, as an addition to the basic skills qualification. Presenting the award, Ian Crees, OCR Senior Manager praised the College for its innovative approach, citing the partnership as a “highly commendable example” of how learning providers can work in tandem with other organisations in the community to encourage participation in Basic Skills programmes.

Further Progress

According to Rossina Harris MBE, Head of Trade Union Studies at Lewishman College, the money will be reinvested into the partnership with Belmarsh. Harris suggested that there were many other individuals among the staff of 600 who could benefit from the project, and it is hoped the project will continue to offer this opportunity.

With employers currently lamenting the poor levels of literacy skills among employees and graduates, the Beacon Programme has a great deal to offer sectors beyond the prison service. Yet despite the commendable success of the Belmarsh project, we must recognise that it ultimately highlights the worryingly low levels of basic learning skills among employees nationwide.

Ideally these problems must be addressed at the much earlier stages of the education process, in order for workers to truly capitalise upon training offered by later employers, and for employers to reap the rewards of their investment. Ultimately employers should not have to subsidise the state for its own failure to provide adequate education in the formative stages of learning.

Michelle Price

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