Select Committee on Education and Skills Written Evidence

Memorandum submitted by the Learning and Skills Council (LSC)


  1.1  The LSC has assumed responsibility for the planning and funding of the Offenders' Learning and Skills Service (OLASS) across England. The service went live in the three development regions in August 2005 and in the remaining six English regions on 31 July 2006.

  1.2  The LSC is delivering the service to offenders in custody and in the community through a network of 22 lead providers.

  1.3  The LSC's response to the Select Committee concentrates upon recommendations made by the Committee which were particularly focused on activity which is now part of the LSC's responsibility.

  1.4  Our response covers the following topics:

    —  A broad curriculum offer

    —  Relevant, learner centred assessment

    —  Entitlement to free Level 2 education

    —  The transfer of Individual Learning Plans

    —  Provision for offenders in the community

    —  Funding for offender learning

    —  Curriculum reform

    —  Quality of provision

    —  Access to ICT

    —  Vocational learning

    —  Employer engagement

  1.5  We have also set out our plans for the future development of OLASS.


The Learning and Skills Council exists to make England better skilled and more competitive

  2.1  We have a single goal: to improve the skills of England's young people and adults to ensure we have a workforce of world-class standard.

  2.2  The LSC is responsible for planning and funding high quality education and training for everyone in England other than those in universities.

  2.3  Our vision is that by 2010, young people and adults in England have the knowledge and skills matching the best in the world and are part of a truly competitive workforce.

  2.4  We are committed to simplifying the way we work. To be clear about what is driving us we have four priorities that will drive our work and investment in 2007-08.

    —  More and better opportunities for young people—investing around £7 billion to help over 1.3 million 14-19 year olds.

    —  Raising the skills of the nation—investing over £3 billion to help over four million adults and many thousands of employers.

    —  Building a world-class system—including investing £600 million in new buildings.

    —  Investing in economic development—through all of the above and with our many partners.


Procurement of the Offenders' Learning and Skills Service (OLASS)

  3.1  The LSC initially procured the Offenders' Learning and Skills Service (OLASS) in three regions, the South West, North West and North East and those regions commenced delivery of OLASS on 1 August 2005.

  3.2  The LSC has since successfully concluded the procurement of the integrated Offenders' Learning and Skills Service in all nine English regions. The new service commenced in the East of England, London, South East, East Midlands, West Midlands and Yorkshire and the Humber on 31 July 2006. The new service is supporting offenders through relevant and seamless learning and skills provision in both custodial and community settings.

  3.3  The procurement process was completed to the agreed, published schedule commencing in December 2004 and ending on 31 July 2006.

  3.4  The scope of the specification to deliver the integrated service was based on principles established in the "Offender's Learning Journey"[1] (OLJ) and includes young people from age 15 to 18 years in custody and over 16 years of age under the supervision of Youth Offending Teams (YOTs). The adult OLJ covers offenders in custody and in the community.

OLJ for Young Offenders

  3.5  Following an Invitation to Tender in the national press the level of interest by organisations to deliver the Service was very high and expressions of interest were received from a wide range of potential providers including FE Institutions, Private Sector Providers, Probation Service Areas and the Voluntary and Community Sector.

  3.6  Tenders were received from a total of 232 organisations and as a result of a robust assessment by the LSC and its partners in the regions 22 lead providers are currently delivering OLASS in 37 units/areas of England.

  3.7  The new provider base differs by 78% from the mix of previous contractors. A new emphasis has been established on the continuation of learning supported by an individual learning plan, an essential record when prisoners are moved within the estate or between custodial and community settings.

The Models

  3.8  A phased approach to the introduction of the service was used to ensure that lessons learned during the first year of delivery could be utilised to improve both the procurement methodology and the specification for the service.

  3.9  The models of procurement in all regions were defined by each Regional OLASS Partnership Board. They determined how the service should be delivered within their region, eg based on criminal justice areas or grouped by establishment type. The Partnership Boards are chaired by the LSC and members include senior representatives from the Prison Service, Probation Service, Youth Justice Board, Jobcentre Plus, Connexions and the Regional Offender Manager (ROM). The role of the Partnership Board is to oversee the strategic development of the service in a region and to ensure that the learning and skills needs of offenders are met, in order to help equip them with the skills they need to access sustainable employment and which meet the labour market needs of employers in the region in which they will be resettled.

  3.10  Members of each Partnership Board were closely involved in the assessment of the tenders, along with Heads of Learning and Skills (HoLS) in the prisons, National Probation Service, Specialist personnel from LSC contributed in an advisory capacity.

  3.11  The models of procurement are described in Annex A.

  3.12  An OGC Gateway Review of the procurement process concluded that:

    "The OLASS 2 procurement phase has proceeded in a well organised and tightly managed fashion. Stakeholder management has represented a major challenge in unifying organisations with different backgrounds and cultures. We were impressed by the fully inclusive approach taken to all aspects of the procurement exercise, particularly the final evaluation and selection process. The latter has resulted in clear, collective ownership of the decisions made and this represents a strong contribution to the foundations necessary for success in the longer term".

The Specification

  3.13  The integrated Offenders' Learning and Skills Service procured by the LSC is now moving to fulfil the aim of the introduction of OLASS, by ensuring that:

    —  offenders, in prisons and supervised in the community, according to need, have access to learning and skills, both in prisons and the community, which enables them to gain the skills and qualifications they need to hold down a job and have a positive role in society; and

    —  the content and quality of learning programmes and qualifications for offenders in custody and in the community is the same as comparable provision elsewhere.

  3.14  These aims are being achieved by an expansion of the learning curriculum beyond that of basic skills (Skills for Life) to skills development and learning that will help offenders access the employment market. The LSC and its OLASS providers are offering:

    —  much improved assessment and learning planned within the context of sentence plans, (driven by and through our partnership approach) and an early, intense focus on initial and diagnostic assessment of learning needs; and

    —  an Individual Learning Plan (ILP), linked to the sentence plan and the Offender Assessment System (OASys), with detailed goals and a record of progress in all learning and skills activities.


  4.1  The LSC has not responded to all the recommendations of the Select Committee. Recommendations which were made for the attention of other organisations have been omitted from the LSC's response.

    1.  Education should be understood in broader terms than just improving the employability of the prisoner. Employability skills should not be emphasised to such an extent that the wider benefits of learning are excluded.

  4.2  The contractual arrangements put into place by the LSC oblige our contractors to make a broad curriculum offer as set out in the Offender's Learning Journey (OLJ) for adults or young offenders as appropriate to the establishment concerned. The curriculum offer is focused upon their individual needs and is agreed in their individual learning plan.

  4.3  The learning and skills offer to offenders under OLASS offers a broad range of skills development opportunities combined with "softer" outcomes, eg social and personal learning.

    2.  The Government should commission research to demonstrate the impact of education on rates of re-offending (Paragraph 34);


    3.  Current concentration on basic skills is based on little more than a "hunch"; and Government should research to identify what type of education and training provision will have the greatest impact on prisoner learning needs. (Paragraph 47)

  4.4  In addition to any Government commissioned research, the LSC's National Learner Survey will commence in February 2007 for all offender learning in custody. This will commence with a sample from each type of prison, including young offenders, to inform a national survey in line with that undertaken in the mainstream. This will allow the LSC to ascertain offender learners' view of provision on offer in custody and enable us to make changes to provision where that is appropriate.

  4.5  The LSC has also commissioned the Adult Learning Inspectorate (ALI) to conduct a review of the new learning and skills contracting arrangements in the 3 development regions (North East, North West and South West).

  4.6  The aims of this review are to:

    —  Review the training provider learning and skills contract arrangements for the three development regions of the North East, North West and South West. This will include custodial establishments and probation areas for those offenders either transferred to community on temporary release or serving a community sentence.

    —  Evaluate inter and intra agency working arrangements and the impact of the Regional Offender Management commissioning arrangements for learning and skills.

    —  Review the impacts of the interventions agreed within the OLASS project board for the delivery of the learning and skills provision.

  4.7  The LSC has also commissioned research focused on evaluation of the issues which influence the effective engagement of female offenders with learning and skills provision. This research found that:

    —  There are distinct issues which specifically affect the engagement of female offenders.

    —  This has implications for the characteristics, style, content and targets for provision.

  4.8  Key messages include the need to take account of:

    —  family responsibilities

    —  self esteem

    —  health issues

  4.9  And the role of:

    —  social

    —  holistic

    —  experiential

    —  embedded

    —  multi-disciplinary

    —  integrated learning.

  4.10  The research was published in Summer 2006 and can be found at

    7.  The Government and the media should communicate the importance of prison education to the general public. (Paragraph 77)

  4.11  The LSC continues to recognise offenders as a priority for 2007 and the publication of our Annual Statement of Priorities[2] sends an important message to our partners about the need to focus on meeting the needs of this particularly disadvantaged group of learners.

  4.12  There has been active communication with partners working with people in the criminal justice system throughout the developments of the OLASS service; nationally this has been through the National Project Board and regionally through OLASS Partnership Boards.

  4.13  The LSC has specific young offender Youth Justice Board (YJB) funded posts to ensure the profile of this age group was not "lost" in the developing National Offender Management Service (NOMS) regional agenda. These posts have been actively engaged in regional OLASS developments working in a range of ways with the YJB nationally, YJB regional managers, Youth Offending Teams (YOTs) and Connexions.

4.14  Engagement has not been standardised and each region has shaped engagement with partners in line with the OLASS regional board requirements to best meet regional needs; some regions have separate under 18 focused groups and others incorporate this age group into their overall OLASS meeting structures.

    8.  There needs to be much more flexibility. Learning needs to be relevant, learner-centred, and key skills should be embedded in employment-focused training. (Paragraph 81);

  4.15  The implementation of OLASS was a major step to achieving this recommendation. After a period of testing in three development regions the service went live throughout the whole of England from 31 July 2006. The explicit intention is for a relevant, learner-centred service that delivers outcomes set out in an Individual Learning Plan (ILP).

    9.  A learner-centred programme of assessment should be introduced to identify learning needs, including special education needs for all new prisoners. This should be delivered through an Individual Learning Plan, and should be embedded in their overall Sentence Plan. (Paragraph 82)

  4.16  The LSC published its national strategy for funded provision for learners with learning difficulties, "Learning for Living and Work"[3] in October 2006. In collaboration with other agencies the LSC will work to ensure that people with learning difficulties and/or disabilities have access to learning that is equal to that experienced by their peers without learning difficulties and/or disabilities. This applies fully to offender learners.

  4.17  Through OLASS, the LSC intends to secure better assessment and planning to meet individual learners' needs. IAG is an important element of the offender's learning journey and will help to ensure that appropriate learning plans are linked to sentence plans and are agreed for all learners. Those plans will be strongly focused on the skills needed by offenders to help them secure employment upon release.

  4.18  In the past, education and training has too often been a fragmented experience for many offenders as they move between prisons or re-enter the community. The new integrated service is designed to address this by providing prisoners with personalised learning plans that travel with them, and in this way we can assist more offenders to achieve the skills they need to gain employment.

  4.19  The increased involvement of offender management staff in supporting the offender through their learning journey is something which will be encouraged through the OLASS process. The involvement of those staff in supporting and encouraging learning can be very motivating for offenders and we need to build on that opportunity. If we can increase someone's learning and development and therefore employability, we present them with a potential alternative to crime and reduce the likelihood of their re-offending.

    10.  The current assessment of a prisoner's education level is totally inadequate at present should be completely overhauled. (Paragraph 93);


    46.  Much more needs to be done to improve motivational factors that encourage prisoners to learn (see section). Providing a wide range of high quality education programmes would help to motivate prisoners. (Paragraph 271)

  4.20  OLASS requires an early, intense focus on initial and diagnostic assessment of learning needs as well as good quality information, advice and guidance and an induction programme. Each learner will have an ILP, linked to the sentence plan and OASys, or its successor system, with detailed goals and a record of progress in learning and skills activities. As the OLASS ILP Data Project rolls out (see 16/17 below), the ILP will be centrally held and accessed by the provider, offender manager and the offender as they move through the system and into the mainstream.

  4.21  These are key developments in assessment practice: the delivery of the Offender's Learning Journey is a contractual requirement for providers.

    11.  Every prison should have a special educational needs coordinator specifically to support the special educational needs of prisoners, as are in place in Young Offender Institutions. (Paragraph 99);


    12.  Learning Support Assistants should be provided in adult prisons. (Paragraph 102)

  4.22  There is a large proportion of adult offenders that would benefit from the LSC's effective and well researched approach to providing Additional Learning Support (ALS) which includes the use of Learning Support Assistants (LSAs), Special Educational Needs Co-ordinators (SENCOs) and other specialist support, for example for those learners with dyslexia. There is widespread recognition that this will be costly and, in order for this to be implemented, the LSC's proposals for reforming the curriculum offer, and a resulting "freeing up" of resources on provision that is deemed to be of a "lesser priority" needs to take place.

    13.  Investment in young offenders should be brought up to meet the level of additional investment that the Youth Justice Board has delivered to the juvenile estate. (Paragraph 104)

  4.23  Whilst the LSC would welcome additional funds to invest in this area we recognise that the funding levels available for under 18 provision reflects the legal status of those prisoners.

  4.24  The LSC shares the Committee's aspiration but we would be unable to offer an entitlement to offenders which is not available in the mainstream.

  4.25  We will, however, work with partners and the DfES to increase investment in offender learning and skills in line with our statement of priorities.

    15. Entitlement to free Level 2 education for all adults should be applied equally to the prison population. (Paragraph 112)

  4.26  The entitlement to free Level 2 education is applied to the prison population under OLASS.

  4.27  Young people, including younger offenders, already have this entitlement under the LSC's 14-19 offer.

    16.  The current implementation of Individual Learning Plans is haphazard, and it should be a priority to introduce a new system. (Paragraph 117)


    17.  "The transfer of records across prisons is a disgrace." There should be an urgent delivery of an electronic system for the transfer of records. (Paragraph 122)

  4.28  The system of preparing and implementing ILPs is specified in the OLJ which is a contractual requirement for LSC lead providers.

  4.29  The ability for lead OLASS providers to create consistent ILPs and to have the technical capability to access all such relevant learning and learner data for both the LSC and across the offender estate is critical to the success of the integrated OLASS, to avoid duplication of assessment and to ensure accuracy of information and continuity of learning.

  4.30  The three development regions are currently using an interim, electronic ILP system, developed by Tribal as part of its "Maytas" software package. This system enables the information on offender learners collected by the LSC lead providers to be transferable across and between the prisons and probation areas within those three regions.

  4.31  The Maytas system was always planned as an interim solution pending the development of a national system. The national system will need to cover not only all learners in the criminal justice system serving their sentence (or on remand) in the prisons and probation areas in the nine English regions, but also young people subject to supervision via the youth offending service, the contracted out prisons (COPs) and including establishments in Wales.

  4.32  It was clear in May 2006 that, despite our best efforts, the complexities of designing such a system, compatible with the developing National Offender Management system (C-NOMIS), would delay the rollout and implementation of a national OLASS ILP data service.

  4.33  The LSC realised that providers in the 6 new development regions would need to have a temporary mechanism available to them to develop their ILPs, and, importantly, to have some functionality that enabled transfer of data to the LSC and within the offender learning estate. This needed to be in place by 31 July 2006 in time for the service to go live.

  4.34  The LSC national office team, in conjunction with NOMS and the DfES have, therefore, developed such a temporary solution. This takes the form of a "core" ILP or Learning Summary Record derived from the best examples currently in use. This has been made available via an electronic template capable of being transferred via secure email within the criminal justice system.

  4.35  It was developed in consultation with an advisory group of HOLS, OLASS Providers, representatives from the Probation Service and the YJB and OLASS LSC regional leads and circulated to OLASS LSC regional leads with guidance notes on 31 July 2006 for distribution to the new OLASS providers in the six regions.

  4.36  A key criterion for developing this temporary template was that it should be based on the same core ILP being used to develop the new, national system. This should, therefore, make subsequent transfer of data to the new national system, when implemented, more straightforward.

  4.37  In the meantime the LSC has commissioned its own preferred IT solutions provider, Xansa, to undertake the necessary work to procure, on our behalf, the national system (the OLASS ILP Data Project).

  4.38  The OLASS ILP data project team is currently working in partnership with NOMS, Probation Service, HMPS and the YJB to understand fully the technical options available for the system and to recommend an approach that will best suit the offender operational environment.

  4.39  The Request for Proposal (RFP) is scheduled to go out to suppliers by the end of January 2007, contract award April 2007 and the start of a limited trial in August 2007.

  4.40  The key principles for the system are:

    —  Central data store—the data entered into the ILP system will be held in a central database, rather than the data being "transferred" across the criminal justice estate. The database will be interrogated every time a record is retrieved for the offender.

    —  A flexible approach—to allow users to utilise areas of the system in a way which meets their requirements.

    —  Easy to use—to encourage uptake with a minimum of problems.

    —  Single point of entry—as a general principle, the aim is to capture data once, at source and make it available electronically to other relevant systems without a need for re-keying.

  4.41  Processes are also being developed to ensure that the business change requirements, the support and the training required for the new system will be in place. We have established a Business Advisory Group to look at the business change requirements for the new national system.

OGC Gateway Review

  4.42  The OGC Gateway Review 1—Business Justification was carried out on the Data Management Project for Individual learning Plans from 14-16 November 2006. A summary of this report is at Annex B.

  4.43  The young offender estate has had an agreement to transfer ILPs between establishments, through a named contact, and out to YOTs since 2004.

  Self reporting indicates that there has been a decrease in assessing young people on entry to the establishments as follows:

    2003-04  100% of young people entering custody were assessed on entry

    2004-05  88% were assessed

    2005-06  78% were assessed

  4.44  A pilot for supporting timely transfer of data for young people in English prisons returning to Wales is being trialled jointly with Welsh Assembly Government (WAG), Careers Wales, LSC, HMPS and YJB.

  4.45  The YJB eASSET developments propose that the learner's ILP will be attached to the system, thereby giving instant access to records of learning and preventing all duplication. This would link with the LSC ILP (OLD).

    18.  Education provision should be flexible enough to adapt to the different types of prisons and prisoners. (Paragraph 132)

  4.46  The LSC plans, overtime to make changes to the provision which reflect the type of prison and the profile offender (see recommendations section five).

    19.  If the purpose of providing education and training in prisons is to reduce re-offending by enabling prisoners to gain secure employment, then the continuation of support and programmes on release is essential. (Paragraph 136)

  4.47  OLASS addresses this issue. The service is designed to meet the learning and skills needs of offenders wherever they are in the criminal justice system, i.e. either serving a custodial sentence or serving their sentence in the community, and to ensure those needs continue to be met as they pass through transition points. The LSC lead providers in custody are charged with liaising with providers in the community. The LSC has secured an additional £30 million European Social Fund (ESF) and £13.9 million EQUAL funds to support this work. EQUAL an ESF programme which is focused on innovation. The offenders programme which is planned to provide resources for employer engagement work with offenders will run from December 2006 to December 2007.

    21 and 22.  The Learning and Skills Council has not included prison education in its statement of priorities. Prison education must not simply be "bolted-on" to the LSC. The Government must take responsibility for making prison education a priority for the LSC. (Paragraph 142 and 145)

  4.48  This statement was incorrect. In our Annual Statement of Priorities published in December 2004 we said that, "we will complete the successful transfer of responsibilities from DfES to the LSC, including learner support, basic skills and offender learning".

  4.49  The LSC's Annual Statement of Priorities for 2007—the first full year in which it is responsible for planning and funding offender learning—states:

  4.50  We continue to build on the successful roll-out of OLASS. Offenders often have limited skills or qualifications and are often among the most socially deprived: qualifications that are relevant to employment are their key to social mobility and this will be the focus of our delivery. Within this we will:

    —  improve the quality and content of learning and ensure that it is geared to maximising individual's chances of gaining sustainable employment when they re-enter the community;

    —  increase the numbers reaching Level 2 and continue to address the huge literacy and numeracy need through Skills for Life qualifications;

    —  further develop our cross-departmental and cross-agency working to support transition from custody to community; and

    —  enhance the service by increasing the appropriate use of the LSC's mainstream budgets and by levering in other sources of available funding.

  4.51  Offenders are specified as a priority group of learners and young people 14-19 are the highest priority group of learners.

    23.  Recent reforms to contracts have created such uncertain working conditions, leading to many experienced and highly qualified teachers leaving prison education because of this. (Paragraph 149)

  4.52  The integrated service offers through the new delivery arrangement a move to joining up "education" and "vocational training". The transfer of vocational instructors previously employed by the Prison Service to the appointed lead providers through TUPE transfer allows for increased professional development of individuals involved in the vocational element of the offer to offenders in establishments. A total of 204 vocational officers transferred to OLASS providers in the introduction of the Service.

  4.53  Additionally successful transfers of over 4,300 staff from previous contractors were completed to schedule.

  4.54  LSC took national responsibility for education and training for offenders; vocational and education provision, on 1 August 2006 under OLASS. The OLASS provision in YOIs, that is all HM Prison Service under 18 provision, transferred, under a partnership agreement with the YJB, to the LSC.

  4.55  PE and some prison specific training remained with the prison service, for example, some radio stations, horticulture, industrial cleaning and catering provision.

  4.56  As would be expected in any change some loss of staff from educational provision and vocational training provision has taken place. OLASS lead providers have recruited and continue to do so as necessary. The LSC's contract with its providers ensures that staff are offered continuous professional development activities to ensure that their skills and knowledge remain up to date.

    25.  The funding methodology for prison education must be fit for purpose and be flexible. (Paragraph 158);


    26.  Prisons should have access to all of the funding streams available to mainstream Colleges. In particular the Additional Learner Support funding approach should be applied to prison education. (Paragraph 164);


    27.  The Government should undertake a fundamental review to come to conclusions on what it wants to achieve through prison education and funds education provision at a level sufficient to meet this chosen outcome. (Paragraph 168).

  4.57  The LSC has commissioned the Learning and Skills Network (LSN)[4] to advise how prison education can be more effectively organised, planned and funded. These proposals are now being worked through and form a major part of the LSC's proposed consultation on developing the service (see recommendations in section 5).

  4.58  The differences in environment between learning and skills in custody and mainstream learning are substantial, and that makes it unlikely that a mainstream funding methodology can simply be replicated for offenders as a whole across both settings. However, the intention is to develop a funding arrangement that mirrors as closely as possible that in the mainstream whilst recognising differences, and inherent practical and logistical difficulties, caused by issues such as accommodation provision, free learner movement and security constraints (see recommendations in section 5).

    28.  The appointment of Heads of Learning and Skills is a welcome progression but, in many cases, they have not been able to fulfil their intended role. (Paragraph 172);

  4.59  The LSC, at regional and national level, values the role of the Heads of Learning and Skills and regular regional meetings take place to develop relationships. The role of the HoLS is likely to change as a result of the LSC and ROM co-commissioning arrangement, but the LSC believes that they have an important ongoing role in the new arrangements.

    30.  The Government must ensure that the specialist role of teaching staff in prisons is properly recognised and rewarded. At present there is no specific funding identified for this purpose. The Government should properly identify, fund, and drive this process forward. (Paragraph 178)

  4.60  A vital element of continuous improvement is the competence and capacity of the staff who will deliver the Service and as assurance that their skills will be developed and maintained. Also, the development and maintenance of the capacity of sub-contractors (if appropriate) and their staff competence to ensure the quality of sub-contracted provision meets the quality requirements of the Council.

  4.61  Lead providers are required to develop a strategy for Continuous Quality Improvement (CQI) to ensure that the learning delivered to offenders meets the requirements of the common inspection framework and agreed success measures.

  4.62  Lead providers will produce an annual self-assessment report to feed into the overall Self Assessment Report (SAR), including an action plan and identified shortcomings covering both custody and community provision as prescribed in the Offender's Learning Journey.

    31.  It is extremely important to find a way to measure education, training or employment outcomes for prisoners soon after release, and the Prison Service or National Offender Management Service should make this a priority. (Paragraph 189)

  4.63  The Qualifications and Credit Framework (QCF), currently being developed by the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority (QCA), LSC and Sector Skills Development Agency (SSDA) will be a more flexible and responsive system to support incremental learning and achievement. It is anticipated that the QCF will be introduced from August 2007, and over a period of time will replace the National Qualifications Framework. The QCF will be a more flexible and responsive system. It will be capable of recognising all types of achievement by all types of learners using credit as well as qualifications and supporting small steps of learning. Currently, there are a series of test and trials of the QCF underway and these include offenders.

    33.  Current provision of prison education is unacceptable. In 2004, still less than a third of prisoners had access to prison education at any one time. There needs to be a fundamental shift in approach to prison education and a step change in the level of high quality provision that is suited to meet the needs of individual prisoners to provide them with a real alternative to crime on release. (Paragraph 214)


    34.  The quality of existing education provision remains a major concern. 60% of provision inspected by the ALI was inadequate. There must be rapid progress towards meeting external standards of provision of education and training in prisons. (Paragraph 224)

  4.64  The ALI Provider Development Unit's work with 39 failing prisons is reaping benefits. So far, 22 of the supported prisons have been subject to re-inspection. On average, prisons have improved their leadership and management grade by 1.375, on a five point scale, a considerable improvement on the "nearly one" grade average improvement reported in our original response.

  4.65  Since April 2006, the new QIA has begun to deliver its remit to improve quality across post-16 learning. An amount of £824,000 has been ring-fenced specifically for the purpose of quality improvement in the offender learning and skills sector.

  4.66  OLASS will, for the first time, cover learning and skills provision for offenders who are in custody and those serving sentences in the community. Under previous arrangements, an offender may have commenced learning in one prison and upon being moved to another location, either in custody or in the community, found that they were unable to complete their learning aim. The OLASS reforms will provide a framework within which to raise and refocus standards in learning and skills for offenders. We expect these reforms to drive significant improvement in quality and delivery.

  4.67  The vision is to provide offenders with a broad curriculum offer from which their individual learning plans will be drawn. We also want to improve the quality and quantity of provision that offenders receive, so that it is at least as good as the learning and skills offer in the mainstream. We will be making changes to the curriculum so that we can capitalise on learning opportunities available during their sentence either in custody or in the community—unpaid work, for example—and provide up-to-date and relevant learning which will be of value to the offender in the area in which they will be resettled. Early inspection results (post OLASS) show distinct areas of improvement.

  4.68  The LSC is particularly pleased to see signs of improvement in the three OLASS development regions where inspections have taken place. The LSC is determined to continue to pursue improvements in prison education and our focus on the improvement of the quality of the provision will be sustained.

    35.  Lack of access to the internet is a significant barrier to learning. Access to the Internet clearly must be controlled and properly supervised, but the Government must prioritise progress in this area. (Paragraph 229)

  4.69  The LSC is currently funding a £2 million programme to support e-learning for offender learning and skills which is being managed by the National Institute of Adult Continuing Education (NIACE). The programme has three main strands:

    —  A programme of staff development based on the successful e-guides model which has been used in Adult and Community Learning for middle and senior managers. This is being adapted to the needs of staff in the secure environment.

    —  Project funds to support the development of e-learning, part of these funds are being used to support the POLARIS Project in London. Forty nine projects have been approved. The projects are exploring a range of issues including secure Internet access, the development of materials and the integration of e-learning into OLASS provision to support literacy, ESOL, dyslexia and a range of vocational subjects.

    —  Evaluation and the identification and transfer of good practice.

  4.70  The programme is also making available, on CD Roms, a range of highly interactive learning objects in the form of the National Learning Network (NLN) Materials which have been developed as part of the LSC Post-16 e-learning Programme. The topics include basic skills, vocational and academic subjects up to Level 3 to support delivery of courses.

  4.71  The LSC is supporting the UFI/Learndirect pathways work in prisons until July 2007 when we will expect UFI to delivery in custody as part of their mainstream offer.

    36.  An over-emphasis on basic skills driven by Key Performance Targets has narrowed the curriculum too far. Greater flexibility of provision is required to meet the much wider range of educational needs that exists within the prison system. (Paragraph 237)

  4.72  The Offender's Learning Journey sets out a new requirement for the service to be delivered to offenders in custody and in the community. A curriculum that goes far wider than simple delivery of Skills for Life is central to the Offender's Learning Journey. However, significant and substantial basic literacy and numeracy needs are present in the offender population which must be addressed. Learners cannot benefit from broader or higher study, nor to engage in most work-related learning that will lead to employability on release without those basic needs being met as appropriate.

    37.  Government should give further consideration to how basic skills might be embedded in more practical learning experiences right across the prison estate. (Paragraph 241);


    38.  The separate nature of education, vocational training, and work in prisons cannot continue and there must be better links. (Paragraph 242)

  4.73  Integration of education and vocational training and embedding of basic skills was one of the main drivers for establishing the new integrated learning and skills delivery arrangements under the LSC.

  4.74  The LSC, DfES and the QIA are promoting programmes of embedded learning. The transfer of workshop activity allows us to expand this work under OLASS. LSC providers have increasing experience of delivering Skills for Life in work settings. We will utilise this in prison education. The NfER evaluation of our work in the three development regions provides evidence of the real value of embedded basic skills in offender education.

Job-related training

    39.  Vocational training that does not offer the skills needed in today's job market should not continue. A broader variety of vocational opportunities as well as work opportunities need to be offered that prepare prisoners for employment. (Para 245)

  4.75  The Offender's Learning Journey introduces significant change to the focus on, and variety of, work related learning. The Green Paper contains proposals to reinforce that focus still further, particularly through the engagement of employers in designing and developing vocational learning that more effectively meets their specific labour market needs and possibly through the Campus Model.

  4.76  We are working with major employers, Sector Skills Councils (SSCs) and others to improve skills training in this country. We are driven by the needs of employers in both the public and the private sector.

  4.77  We respond to priorities raised by sectors as part of their sector agreements. There are four of these in place at present working as "pathfinders". They are with the media, manufacturing, IT and construction sectors.

  4.78  The LSC has successfully bid for (£13.9 million) EQUAL Funds to support the following activities during 2007 which will ensure that work to improve the skills and employability of offenders is promoted within mainstream strategies and planning developments for employers.

    —  Motivate and engage offenders in high quality programmes of learning to allow them to gain qualifications in employment sectors in employment where there is local demand.

    —  Increase the number of offenders accessing further training upon release and continuing their skills development in employment.

    —  Support offenders seeking self employment to achieve this goal.

    —  Develop an alliance to reduce re-offending by working with, and supporting, employers and employment networks encouraging employers to draw on offenders and ex offenders as a valuable supply of labour and skills.

    —  Enhance the development of softer skills, such as communication, team work and problem solving, needed in the workplace.

    —  Develop an incentive system to support offenders in the workplace and help them maintain sustainable employment.

    —  To develop a strategic approach to engaging with employers nationally and within the English regions.

    —  Strengthen approaches and management of to offender learning and skill enhancement to meet the skills needs for employers in the regions.

    —  Increase awareness and opportunities for sustainable employment offenders who may be further disadvantaged in the labour market by learning difficulties or disability.

    —  To increase access to employment opportunities for individual's in under represented occupations.

    40.  We fully support the excellent work of the Young Offender Programme, led by National Grid Transco, and recommend that the Government should take steps to enable and encourage many more of these partnership arrangements with employers. (Paragraph 248);


    41. and 42.  As with the Young Offender Programme, led by National Grid Transco, the Committee would like to see more identification of skills shortages within areas local to the prison, and partnerships developed with businesses to meet these skill shortages. Working with employers has to be the future of vocational education provision and this has to be driven and funded by the Government. (Paragraphs 249 and 251)

    45.  The Government should encourage a great deal more entrepreneurial activity within prisons in terms of business enterprises, Further Education Colleges, Universities, and employers. (Paragraph 267)

  4.79  The work undertaken by the LSC's providers in offender learning provides a strong link to the FE sector as recommended by the Select Committee. The LSC is the major funder of further education and as such is able to bring substantial leverage into the system. Their identification of offenders as a priority group, combined with this leverage means the potential benefits to offender learners are significant. The LSC also brings its expertise in terms of the skills agenda into play. It offers links to employers at national, regional and local levels to enable learning plans to be undertaken which meet both the needs of employers and that of the individual learner.

  4.80  Train to Gain will also offer substantial opportunities for offenders to gain and sustain employment on release.

    48.  The Government should look at significantly increasing the role of mentoring in prison education. (Paragraph 283)

  4.81  The LSC's strategy for work with the Voluntary and Community Sector (VCS) identifies three key roles for the sector:

    —  as providers of learning and skills activity;

    —  as a source of expertise and advice; and

    —  as employers.

  4.82  The LSC has arrangements in place with some VCS providers to enable their work to continue and to work with them to align their offer to the broader needs of offenders.

  4.83  The LSC's strategy for engaging the VCS is in line with the work NOMS and the Faith and Community Sector Alliance(s) in particular.

  4.84  The EQUAL funding will be used to provide mentoring services to offenders in custody and in the community.

    —  Regions have OLASS strategies for engaging with the VCS.

    —  Nationally for young people the LSC are partners in the EQUAL funded Rainer "RESET" pilot working in YOIs and the YJB/LSC funded Rathbone—OLASS "Through the Gate" pilot.

    —  DfES have provided £3 million annually of ETE Community Engagement Funding through the YJB to promote engagement by providing mentoring support and guidance. The LSC commissions this provision through Youth Offending Teams.


  5.1  Having assumed responsibility for the planning and funding of the Offenders' Learning and Skills Service across England, the Learning and Skills Council (LSC) is now leading the strategic development of the reform of the Service. We plan to conduct a formal consultation on the broad proposals in Spring 2007. Further detailed, technical proposals will be developed from this point, leading to a better planned, more coherent, effective and efficient service across the prison estate.

  5.2  Alongside this, new funding methodologies are being developed to better reflect the nature of offender learning, and a key outcome of this work will be to ensure that funding is distributed more appropriately, with priority being given to those groups of learners for whom learning and skills will be of most benefit, for example, in assisting them to secure and sustain employment upon release.

  5.3  In successfully assuming responsibility for planning and funding offender learning, the LSC is utilising its experience and strength in commissioning provision based upon identified need and agreed priorities. In passing responsibility to the LSC, Her Majesty's Prison Service (HMPS) required the LSC to maintain existing volumes of provision at an establishment level. This was to maintain a level of stability so as not to affect the "purposeful activity" regime in prisons. While it is important to at least maintain inherited volumes, it is the LSC's view that in a number of instances too much reliance has been placed upon education provision as a means of occupying prisoners rather than equipping individuals with the necessary skills and qualifications required to secure and sustain meaningful employment upon release.

  5.4  The LSC has therefore been careful to purchase the same volumes of provision, but it has also expected its new providers to deliver against a much more demanding specification. In addition, LSC providers have received large numbers of former prison service vocational training instructional staff and former education contractor staff under TUPE legislation—many of whom were in receipt of better benefits packages than the LSC's appointed provider's staff. The LSC has had to manage all these requirements within the same annual budget. The previous service was described as "unacceptable" by the Committee and this highlights the scale of the challenges ahead.

  5.5  The LSC presented its proposals for Developing the Offenders' Learning and Skills Service on 9 November 2006 to the joint OLASS National Project Board and Education, Training and Employment/Finance, Benefit and Debt Sub Board. These proposals, in principle, have been wholeheartedly supported by all stakeholders. Some of the key recommendations were to:

    —  ensure the focus of education in prisons is not simply about maintaining an acceptable level of "purposeful activity" (keeping prisoners busy) during the prison day;

    —  offer a service aimed at equipping prisoners with the relevant and appropriate skills and qualifications they require to secure and sustain employment upon release;

    —  review the curriculum offer and the way in which prison education is currently organised, planned and funded, leading towards the introduction of a "core offer" across all establishments, thus enabling a "seamless transition" and enabling continuity in learning for many prisoners when they move around the prison estate;

    —  deliver a differentiated learning offer according to a number of factors, including sensitivity to the different groups of offenders, sentence length and establishment type. For example, prisons with a very high turnover and throughput of prisoners ought not to focus upon the delivery of potentially lengthy qualifications and workshop based provision, rather that the limited time should be devoted toward initial assessment, diagnostics and screening, and potentially some "engagement" provision before being referred on to other establishments; and

    —  target the limited resources for prison learning and skills according to agreed priorities:

(i)  A Key Priority Group being prisoners for whom learning and skills can have the most effective impact, for example, by targeting those that are close to release, by equipping them with the necessary skills and qualifications required to secure and sustain meaningful employment upon release. A large proportion of this provision ought to contribute (directly and indirectly) towards the Government's Public Service Agreement (PSA) targets for Skills for Life (equipping individuals with the basic skills they require to perform an active role in society) and the acquisition of first Full Level 2 qualifications. All the qualifications offered should be relevant and driven by the needs of the labour market, be up-to-date and meet industry standards, ie have national accreditation.

(ii)  "Engagement provision": less formal, non-accredited but motivating and confidence building "taster" provision to be made available to attract prisoners into learning, as many have had negative educational experiences in the past or left education early.

(iii)  Regional Learning Support: ensure an appropriate proportion of the budget for prison education is identified to enable support to be provided to individuals over and above that which they would normally receive. Given the high educational support needs of this group, this is essential. The Youth Justice Board's (YJB) approach to making "enhanced" funding available to the LSC for the provision of Learning Support Assistants and Special Educational Needs Co-ordinators is to be commended but we believe that a similar support facility should be available for adult offenders.

(iv)  Information, Advice and Guidance (IAG): proper IAG interventions are fundamental to the success and continuation of the Offender's Learning Journey.

(v)  Higher-level (above Level 2) learning and/or "personal" learning: although the majority of offender learning and skills activity will focus on Skills for Life and vocational learning at or below Level 2, the wider offer recognises that this "deficit" model of learning and skills will be inappropriate for some offenders.

(vi)  Higher-level learning (ie at Levels 3 and 4) and learning for personal interest will be supported as appropriate and as funds allow.

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