Biggest boost yet for prison learning

16th May 2003 at 01:00
Ministers have announced that an extra pound;110 million is to be spent on educating offenders. Martin Edwards reports.

GOVERNMENT ministers have announced what they say is the biggest investment so far in prison education.

Over the next three years, pound;110 million of extra funding will go into educating and training offenders across England. Current core funding for education and training in prisons is pound;82m a year The announcement was made by adult skills minister Ivan Lewis and the former prisons minister Hilary Benn on Friday. It is part of a long-term strategy to reduce crime by improving training for offenders. This, government officials hope, will improve their chances of getting a job chances and, in turn, reduce the risks of re-offending.

Mr Lewis said: "This is the most significant investment in history in prison education and training on a sustained basis. It signals the Government's strong belief that this is a powerful anti-crime strategy."

The money will fund several initiatives. These include using technology to improve records of prisoners' achievements, eliminating the repeated assessments when inmates move between prisons.

The money will also be used to give more lower-category prisoners access to day-release learning and to provide more personal advisers in young offenders' institutions to achieve the Government's target of getting 90 per cent of them into full-time education.

Under the new plans, prisons will also be expected to outline their commitment to the provision of high-quality training "so that the ethos of education provision is ingrained in the prison culture, rather than simply being an add-on", said Mr Lewis.

The announcement coincided with a visit to New Hall women's prison in Wakefield, Yorkshire.

The Government has hailed Wakefield as a role model for what other prisons can achieve.

Of the 350 prisoners, around 130 are taking part in education training courses including hairdressing, art and design, information technology, and health and social care. The prison is also expanding its training thanks to a new building which will house a library and training suites.

Karen Grant, a course tutor at Wakefield, said: "The education system has already failed them once so that when they come here they have no confidence.

"Many of them have never taken any exams or have any qualifications and they can often find it quite difficult to adapt."

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