Partners in skills for offenders

Your account of the new Offenders Learning and Skills Service (OLASS) was very welcome (FE Focus, August 11 ). Whatever the difficulties faced by the new contractors, their success is essential to the lives of offenders, ex-offenders and the public at large.

In the last year a debate within the sector has focused on what would make offender learning and skills successful. And the good news is that there is a virtually unanimous consensus across the key agencies about what's needed. Now they must work together to bring it about.

There are currently detailed national implementation plans for 14-19 and vocational qualification reform, which are far more complicated and yet fully involve the organisations which need to contribute to their success.

So why not a national implementation process and plan for offender learning and skills?

There is widespread and relatively uncontroversial agreement on: the desirability of IT facilities and internet access, the integration of learning programmes with other prison activities, relevant training and development for prison officers and others across the OLASS system, a service-wide database of transferable offender records, and remuneration which incentivises offenders to participate in education What is needed now is collective resolution to implement these measures through a consensus of political, official and sectoral stakeholders, together addressing the challenges of delivering what's required within realistic resourcing and robust security. Partnership to deliver results is the key to many other national education and skills policy initiatives. Now is the time to apply it purposefully to offender learning and skills.

John Brenchley

Leader of OCR's Offenders Learning and Skills Group

Veritas House

125 Finsbury Pavement


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