Following the Secretary of State’s recent announcement on the Coates Review of Prison Education, The Bell Foundation has submitted this response. The response concentrates principally, but not exclusively, on issues for prisoners with English language and literacy needs as this is the focus of the Foundation’s Language for Change programme. It draws on commissioned research and experience from working with project partners and our experience of designing and delivering interventions to support vulnerable learners in school settings for whom English is a second or Additional Language.
What needs to change in order to ensure that education and training provision meets the needs and interests of all potential prison learners
We highlighted the need for accurate data on numbers of offenders/ex-offenders with ESOL and how language and literacy needs need to be identified. We also called for more effective sentence planning and continuation of learning.
How prisoners could be better incentivised to participate in education
We recommended giving education the same monetary value as work within prisons and making education relevant by listening to and learning from learners. We also highlighted the need for an improvement in accessibility to all courses.
How to better assess and measure the performance and effectiveness of prison learning
To deepen and more systematically understand what works, consideration should be given to how to proactively test the efficacy of educational interventions and how this can be encouraged, widely disseminated and used.
The most effective teaching and delivery models for education in prison settings
We suggested providing additional language support in existing language programmes, raising the language awareness and importance of education amongst prison staff. We commented on how accreditation needs to be flexible and useful rather than the default setting for courses. We provided examples and evidence of peer mentoring for both mentors and those being mentored.
Further improving teaching standards, recruiting and retaining the best quality teachers
We suggested a clear path of career progression and qualifications was important as well as ensuring remuneration is equal to similar roles outside of prisons. Access to high quality CPD, a professional body or network for those teaching in prisons and having good quality, relevant and engaging resources to work with.