The University and College Union (UCU) has welcomed a decision to suspend prison education as part of a wider prison lockdown.
According to the UCU, Her Majesty’s Prison and Probation Service (HMPPS) has now confirmed that all non-essential activities involving groups of people, including prison education, should be stopped with immediate effect.
Coronavirus: Unconditional offers 'paused' for two weeks
UCU said it would now work with HMPPS and prison education employers to look at other ways to support prisoners’ learning during the coronavirus crisis. The union also called on employers to provide guarantees to prison education staff that they would continue to be paid.
The announcement comes after news this morning that more than 60 per cent of prison education staff felt that handwashing facilities were inadequate.
According to new data published by the UCU, classrooms in prisons were not being cleaned between lessons and staff had to share pens and equipment with prisoners.
UCU general secretary Jo Grady said: "We are pleased that the government has listened to the concerns being raised and moved to stop all face-to-face education activity within prisons. The health and safety of staff and prisoners is paramount and it is right that we take every possible step to help stop the spread of this virus within the prison estate.
"UCU will work with HMPPS to look at other ways in which members can support prisoners to continue learning during this period. In the meantime, we are calling on prison education providers to give urgent reassurances to their staff that they will not lose out financially as a result of this decision."