Place learning at the heart of the prison experience

Monday 18th March 2024

The challenge that a progressive government needs to address.

The prison population is overly-defined by the demographics of educational and societal disadvantage.

Thus, our prisons are disproportionately populated by those who have origins in the care system, by those from the most economically disadvantaged minority ethnic groups and, critically, by those with low levels of educational attainment and, specifically, low levels of literacy and numeracy, something that is ordinarily coupled with the absence of accredited workplace qualifications.

A statutory entitlement to education for all but those on the shortest sentences ought to be a signature policy for any progressive government, with educational progress a key component in the decision-making processes for parole and release.

In particular, this entitlement ought to feature literacy and numeracy development and apprenticeship or Higher Education access.

In effect, incarceration without education – especially in terms of basic skills and readiness for employability – is incarceration without the prospect of rehabilitation. No progressive government should tolerate that.

The proposed policy response

Establishing a pilot project across a limited number of prisons ought to be an achievable goal within the next Parliament and could be part of the broader transformation of criminal justice policy.

Within a decade, learning ought to sit at the heart of the prison experience, and education a practical demonstration of the state’s commitment to rehabilitation.

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Lessons From Lockdown
For too long, changes to the education system have been driven by political considerations, short -term difficulties and even, at times, nostalgia. Lessons From Lockdown sets out why this piecemeal approach to reform needs stop and provides an invaluable contribution to the debate that now must take place.
Rosemary Bennet
Former Education Editor, The Times