10th March 2016

Transforming rehabilitation? Prison education: analysis and options

Prison education: analysis and options

Download the full report – Transforming rehabilitation? Prison education: analysis and options (pdf)

Lack of “Rehabilitation Revolution” for prison education, new research by think tank reveals

Standards in prison education have failed to improve, and in some aspects declined since 2010, according to a new report published today by the Education Policy Institute.

The report, Transforming Rehabilitation? Prison Education:  analysis and options, provides an analysis of available data on prison education. The Education Policy Institute designed a ‘scorecard’ for prison education based on three key indicators:  access and participation; learning outcomes; and quality. Findings include:

  • Prisoners are spending too much time locked up in their cells with limited access to rehabilitation opportunities. Only 14 per cent spent the recommended 10 or more hours out of cell in 2014/15, little changed from 13 per cent in 2008/9;
  • Despite commitments to improving basic literacy and numeracy, the achievement of below Level 2 accredited qualifications in English and Maths has fallen by 10 per cent;
  • A worrying decline in quality according to inspections by Ofsted and HMIP, with the percentage of prisons rated Inadequate or Requires Improvement increasing by nearly a half from 2011/12 to 2014/15, from 50 per cent to 72 per cent.

The Education Policy Institute’s Executive Chairman, David Laws, commented:

This research demonstrates that the Government’s “Transforming Rehabilitation” strategy has not yet improved prison education. This is partly a consequence of increased pressures throughout the prison estate as a whole, but also indicates the need for new approaches to drive up standards and help reduce reoffending”.

The Education Policy Institute’s report highlights the lack of data available to effectively monitor performance in this area, and recommends that better and more consistent data is collected by each prison on how well they are delivering against rehabilitation outcomes. This should be part of a package of reforms designed to give prison governors greater control over the education offer in their prisons, while holding them to account for their performance.

Other recommendations and options for reform of prison education discussed in the report include:

  • A specialised offer for 18-21 year olds in custody, mirroring the “Youth Obligation” for those receiving Universal Credit in the community;
  • More innovative use of incentives, including the potential for prisoners to earn an ‘Individual Learning Budget’;
  • ‘Future-proofing’ prison education through greater use of digital learning, in particular provision for prisoners to use portable technology to pursue personalised learning.