Hayes launches shake-up of learning behind bars

30th July 2010 at 01:00

Prison education is to be reviewed after Justice Secretary Kenneth Clarke called for prisons to become places of "education, hard work and change".

Visiting HMP Wandsworth, where education services are provided by Kensington and Chelsea College, FE minister John Hayes launched the review, which is expected to inform a justice green paper in the autumn.

"With effective and relevant courses, ex-offenders will be better able to find work and so be less of a concern to the wider community and more of an asset to the economy," he said.

"But we must also have value for money. The review I am undertaking will look at current courses and where they can be better tailored to social needs."

The Department of Business, Innovation and Skills has called Wandsworth's attempts to improve education and rehabilitation "groundbreaking". The prison has attracted funding from private and charitable sources - a precedent likely to be attractive to a coalition Government that is emphasising the "Big Society".

Ofsted, which gave the prison an overall Grade 2 rating, praised the way that Wandsworth has improved the range of its vocational courses, replacing low-skill manufacturing work with training in motorcycle repair, catering, fork-lift truck driving and horticulture.

It has attracted private investment from Timpson, the high-street shoe repair and key-cutting service, which is funding half the costs of an academy in the prison, potentially offering ex-offenders a direct route back into employment.

The prison also broadcasts a radio station for up to five hours a day, offering programmes such as Toe by Toe (a reading mentoring scheme), and Fathers in Prison, promoting responsible parenting.

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