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Improve prison education to cut crime, government urged

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Improving prison education will help to cut crime and reduce the cost of reoffending, according to campaigners.

The Prisoner Learning Alliance (PLA), which represents 23 organisations including the Association of Colleges, the Open University and the Association of Employment and Learning Providers, has today urged ministers to give education a greater priority in prisons to help reduce the cost of repeat offending, which is estimated to be between £9 billion to £13 billion a year.

The group wants the Offender Learning and Skills Service (OLASS) contracts, which are due for renewal this summer, to be extended for another year to avoid the cost and disruption of re-procurement.

It also says the contracts should include more flexibility so that prisons can meet a wider range of learning needs.

The PLA has come up with eight suggestions which, with greater flexibility in the contracts, could help improve prison education.

These include better use of learning technology, partnerships with charities to enrich the curriculum, a more effective process to engage “hard-to-reach” prisoners including peer mentors and learning champions, and giving prison teachers guaranteed access to CPD.

Alexandra Marks, chair of PLA, said "more flexibility" in the OLASS contracts would "enable prisons to meet a wider range of learning needs to help reduce reoffending".

“This summer, the government will need to make a decision on these contracts and therefore we urge ministers to look at what could be done better," she added.

In 2013-14, some 58 per cent of prisons inspected by Ofsted were judged to require improvement or graded inadequate for learning and skills provision.

People with qualifications are 15 per cent less likely to commit crime after leaving prison, according to data from the Ministry of Justice.

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