Poor Support for Prisoner Education

Image credit: “Pleasure / Reading” by CarbonNYC [in SF!] is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

Shortages of prison staff and a lack of training means not enough prisoners are able to improve their reading – according to a new report by Ofsted and His Majesty’s Inspectorate of Prisons.

In March 2022, Ofsted and His Majesty’s Inspectorate of Prisons (HMIP) published a joint review of reading education in prisons, which highlighted the barriers preventing prisoners from receiving the support they need and made several recommendations that were accepted by His Majesty’s Prison and Probation Service (HMPPS) and prison governors.

This week, a follow-up report to last year’s review finds that, while some progress has been made in meeting those recommendations, improvements in key areas such as screening, assessment, resourcing and strategy development have been too slow.

Between 1 October 2022 and 31 March 2023, Ofsted and HMIP inspected 24 prisons in England. These included:

• 3 category A adult male prisons
• 9 category B adult male prisons
• 8 category C adult male prisons
• 1 category D adult male prison
• 2 adult female prisons
• 1 young male offender institution

Of these, 12 were judged inadequate, 10 requires improvement, and 2 good for overall effectiveness.

The report finds:

• HMPPS and governors have not secured sufficient specialist training for staff
• prison leaders have not provided ample opportunities for prisoners to access the library
• prison leaders do not encourage regular attendance at reading classes
• leaders do not provide enough classes for English for speakers of other languages (ESOL)
• prison leaders have not used assessments that can identify the specific reading knowledge and skills that prisoners are missing or need to improve
• prison leaders have not established and communicated clear pathways to help prisoners improve their reading skills
• prison leaders do not match the ambition of their reading strategies with the required level of detail in their action plans

The report acknowledges that the prison system is still facing challenges as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, including staffing problems, which have contributed to the delays in making necessary improvements in prison reading education.

Ofsted and HMIP have issued additional recommendations for prison leaders and management, including fast-tracking the implementation and use of the new HMPPS reading tool and providing urgent support for ESOL learners.

Why does this matter?

The significance of high-quality reading education in prisons cannot be overstated. It can be a transformative force, giving prisoners the chance to develop crucial literacy skills, expand their knowledge and find pleasure in learning. Equipping prisoners with reading skills allows them to embark on a path towards rehabilitation and reintegration into society.

How can we help?

We ensure we keep up to date with any changes in legislation and case law so that we are always best placed to advise you properly. If you would like to discuss any aspect of your case, please contact any member of our vastly experienced Criminal Defence team, for assistance with any criminal law related matter.

Mr John Stokes (John.Stokes@danielwoodman.co.uk),
Miss Sarah Turland (Sarah.Turland@danielwoodman.co.uk),
Mr Anthony Pearce (Anthony.Pearce@danielwoodman.co.uk) or
Mr Daniel Woodman (Daniel.Woodman@danielwoodman.co.uk).

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