We have more than 80,000 adults in our custody. One of the most important things we can do once they are inside the prison walls is to make sure that they get the literacy and numeracy skills they need to make them employable and positive contributors to society once released. For those serving longer sentences, education and training is a key part of their rehabilitation.
We must have the right incentives for prisoners to learn and for prison staff to make sure that education is properly prioritised. I want to see prisoners motivated to engage in their own learning and Governors with the right tools to be more demanding and creative about the education provided in the prisons they run.
I have seen some excellent examples of innovation and visionary organisations providing prisoners with education opportunities and qualifications they actually need to help secure a job on release. But I want to see more.
That is why I have asked Dame Sally Coates to lead a review of the provision of education in prisons.
Dame Sally has a wealth of experience in working with pupils in inner-city schools and in taking decisive action to improve schools’ performance. She took charge of Burlington Danes Academy when it became an ARK school, leading it from special measures to outstanding in all areas. In her current role as Director of Academies South for United Learning she oversees the provision of education in 16 academies and 7 independent schools. She recently carried out a review of teaching standards for the Department for Education and I know she will inject fresh thinking into the neglected area of prison education so that many more offenders’ lives can be turned around.
Dame Sally will be supported by a panel of people who have delivered outstanding secondary education, experts in further and higher education, employers, representatives from Ofsted, senior officials from the Ministry of Justice, the National Offender Management Service and the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills as well as experienced frontline prison staff. Together they will work with Dame Sally to explore how we can significantly improve education for all prisoners.
They will also investigate how the quality and methods of prison teaching can be improved including in classrooms and workshops, how prisoners can be encouraged to positively engage with learning and the potential for employers to advise on the curriculum to ensure that prisons offer the right courses and qualifications to enable prisoners to secure jobs on release.
I want this review to happen at pace so I have asked Dame Sally to make recommendations by spring next year.
A copy of the terms of reference for the review is available in the Libraries of both Houses.