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UCU calls for Secretary of State’s intervention on prison education job cuts

The University and College Union (UCU) has today (Friday) written to the Secretary of State for Justice David Gauke urging him to intervene over plans to cut over 100 prison education jobs across the north of England.

The prison education provider Novus recently announced that 176 staff were at risk across 27 prisons where it operates. It proposes to retain only 62 full time equivalent roles, meaning over 100 posts are set to be lost overall.

The cuts have been blamed on the drop in value of new prison education contracts which were introduced at the beginning of April. Novus has so far refused to rule out compulsory redundancies. The letter also calls on the secretary of state to examine the wider impact of the new contracts.

UCU said the loss of over 100 experienced prison educators would have a serious impact on learning opportunities for offenders at a time when prisons are reporting record levels of assaults and self-harm. The union also pointed to research showing prisoners who don’t take part in prison education are three times more likely to be reconvicted.

UCU acting general secretary Paul Cottrell said: ‘These job losses would be hugely damaging at a time when the sector is already struggling to recruit and retain staff. You cannot make cuts of this scale and not impact on the education and opportunities available to offenders. This is a particularly worrying move given that reports of assault and self-harm in prisons are at record levels.

‘We are calling on the Secretary of State to personally intervene, both to encourage Novus to reconsider these cuts and rule out compulsory job losses, and to properly examine the impact of contract changes on prison education overall.’

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