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Prison education 'under threat' from constant contract changes

Regular retendering harms teacher morale with 60% unhappy at the situation

Prison education is under threat from continuous changes to teaching contracts, according to a University and College Union (UCU) and Institute of Education (IoE) report published today.

The study — which surveyed teaching staff working in British prisons — showed that over 60 per cent of the workforce is unhappy about competitive retendering of contracts.

Most of those interviewed thought that the implementation of results-based funding as well as dwindling resources, few opportunities for progression and high workloads were dispiriting for teachers and damaging for prisoner education.

The report adds that half of prison educators were “likely to look for a new job in the next 12 months.”

UCU general secretary Sally Hunt supported the findings, arguing that “competitive retendering is not appropriate for prison education which needs consistency and certainty.

“We would like to see our prison educators paid on a par with college lecturers, given better terms and conditions and adequate resources to do their job.

“It is very worrying that the people tasked with educating prisoners report that aspects of their work environment are having a negative impact on the quality of education they can provide.”

According to human rights group Liberty, prisoners older than compulsory school age do not officially have the right to education.

However the National Offender Management Service “is under a general duty to provide evening classes at every prison and to encourage prisoners to profit from the educational facilities provided.”

These essential rehabilitative services are now under threat according to National Association of Probation Officers general secretary Ian Lawrence.

“This is yet another example of competitive tendering having a negative impact on services and costing the taxpayer more money,” said Mr Lawrence.

“The government needs to realise that these services need investment in order to run efficiently and effectively and staff need to feel valued for the hard work that they do.

“It is a false economy to under-invest in prison education and rehabilitation services as we know this leads to more and more people returning to custody at a cost to the taxpayer and victims.”


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