Excluded prison lecturers may get justice

PRISON governors could soon be made to account for themselves at appeal hearings if they ban lecturers from teaching their inmates.

Home Office officials are to hold a meeting with unions and employers after increasing concern that prison lecturers are being excluded without good reason.

In a letter to the National Association of Teachers in Further and Higher Education, Home Office minister Hilary Benn confirmed he agreed with the principle of an appeals system.

He said: "I would expect that such a meeting would clarify the appeal procedures that should operate when governors exercise their authority to exclude teachers from a prison, and the role in these procedures for both unions and employers."

The effect of exclusions is that staff, who are not employed by the prison service, are unable to work even though they have not been made redundant or dismissed.

More than 20 lecturers, mainly working for colleges with prison education contracts, are thought to have been excluded over the past year, says NATFHE.

"The problem is that they don't have to give a reason for their decision, so potentially a lecturer could be excluded simply because their face doesn't fit," said Dan Taubman, national official for NATFHE's colleges'

department.

In one case, the Prison Service said it was prevented by the Official Secrets Acts from giving reasons for exclusion, he said. Other reasons can include keeping in professional contact with inmates after release, and forgetting to hand in prison keys.

Before incorporation of colleges, prison lecturers were employed by local education authorities and there was a recognised appeals procedure. Now it is up to individual prisons to decide whether to have an appeals procedure.

In a letter to Mr Benn, Mr Taubman said: "We have over the years tried to discuss this matter with prison services, but have always been rebuffed and told that this was a matter that should be discussed with the employers.

"We regard this response as disingenuous, as the employers' colleges often feel as powerless as NATFHE members in exclusions."

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