Select Committee on Education and Skills Written Evidence

Memorandum submitted by City & Guilds

  City & Guilds has been working as a charity in support of better practice for over 125 years. We are the UK's leading vocational awarding body, offering over 500 qualifications over 28 industry sectors, through 8,500 approved centres in over 100 countries worldwide. Our qualifications, which span seven levels from basic skills to the highest standards of professional achievement, are designed to help people and businesses achieve growth, prosperity and success.

  City & Guilds qualifications are designed to provide a combination of practical experience and theoretical knowledge. They are developed with the help of experts in relevant industries and many are offered in partnership with industry bodies. Our centres include schools, colleges, training organisations, companies, adult education institutes and the armed forces. Depending on the centre, it is possible to study full-time, part-time, or through distance learning.

  Our qualifications in the education and training sector provide:

    —  nationally-recognised pathways to career development;

    —  the flexibility required by changes in knowledge and skills; and

    —  a wide choice to meet particular needs and interests.

  We have over 130 prisons as centres in England with 10 contracted (privately run) prisons in addition. From these centres we received 13,845 learner registrations for 2005-06, distributed as follows:


  Only a third of prisoners have access to formal education, lasting on average nine hours a week. More than half of male prisoners and more than two-thirds of female adult prisoners have no qualifications.[5] The value of education in improving skills, confidence and employment prospects, so contributing to reducing offending is widely recognised. The tension between the overwhelming priority of security and evolving best practice in learning (including e-learning) is an impediment to improvements in the availability and scope of learning opportunities.

  For education to be truly effective, there needs to be better flow of data to follow, or indeed go with, inmates. Frequent churn between prisons means that those in prison are frequently put through very many wasteful reassessments and often begin one course, only to begin it or something different, a short time later when they are moved. Better data control is essential. In addition, increasing numbers and current over-crowding undermine the excellent work which many prison educators do. Positive changes in prison education will be very difficult to achieve in our view in isolation from the wider prison regime (including particularly churn, overcrowding, the physical environment, training of prison officers, drugs and mental health issues, recording and sharing of learner information).

  Basic skills lie at the heart of successful efforts to reduce offending and re-offending. Half of all prisoners are at or below Level 1 (the level expected of an 11 year-old) in reading, two thirds in numeracy and four-fifths in writing.[6] A third of offenders have basic skills needs at the lowest level—below Level 1.[7] There are some practical issues about prisoners' participation in national qualifications in this area: learning materials and national tests are increasingly computer-carried and Internet access remains difficult in prisons (a House of Commons report states that only 31 out of 75,000 prisoners have access to the Internet.[8]

  However undue emphasis on basic skills to the exclusion of all other learning is almost certainly counter-productive. Motivation is all, and the best motivation to improve basic skills is often indirect. Learning what interests you or motivates you—whether family history, fashion or cabinet making—is a way of building self-esteem and a desire to learn—and if the learning is certificated (eg through our Creative Studies) it creates a real sense of pride and achievement. We offer Design and Craft qualifications (including fashion-wear, textiles and soft furnishings, life-drawing and painting in both men's and women's prisons.

  Half of inmates lack the skills needed for 96% of jobs available upon their release. Nearly half of male sentenced prisoners were excluded from school and nearly a third of all prisoners were regular truants whilst at school. Wider employability skills or "life-skills" often seem more relevant to those whose experience of life has been at best chaotic. It is often easier to see the benefits of building the skills and knowledge needed to manage life and obtain and maintain paid employment than to appreciate repeating as an adult the "three Rs" you failed as a child. Employer engagement may be crucial, particularly given the skills gaps in certain sectors. If more employers could be supported to work with prisons to provide offenders with the skills to fill these gaps and become employable much progress would be made.

  One major impediment to prisoners gaining qualifications is the frequent moves from prison to prison that happen at very short notice. Transferable learner records would assist, as will in time electronic portfolios (though limited access to computers will be a problem) but we would welcome a wider discussion on how we may assist the mobility of evidence and continuity of assessment in prisons. The learner record issue is one that has been addressed by the prisons and we have seen a vast improvement in the transfer of these. The contracting out of provision in the prisons may see an improvement in mobility of evidence and continuity of assessment. However, where no contract exists the individual institutions still work very much in isolation and, as a result of limited resources, they often do not give priority to learners' needs once they have moved on to another institution. There is also the real difficulty of continuing a programme on leaving prison, which may not feature highly in any post-release support arrangements.


  We accredit prison staff with the following awards: Levels 2 and 3 NVQs in Custodial Care, Level 3 NVQ in Custodial Healthcare. We are pleased to discuss further how we can assist development of staff expertise. We are working closely with Lifelong Learning UK, the sector skills council responsible for post 16 teaching and training, in the development of a new system of teacher training initial and post-qualifying awards. We would welcome better understanding of the particular needs of those who work in prison education, to feed into the development of the new framework and ensure the specialist needs of those working with learners in prisons are recognised.


  The major complication and source of frustration for an Awarding Body working with the prisons is that it is almost impossible to support change and have a real impact on offender learning when initiatives we support or develop are most often piecemeal and localised. We know we could improve provision for offender learning enormously if we were given the opportunity to work with the Prison Service Estate as one national body, rather than dealing with 140 institutions as we do now. City & Guilds would appreciate the support of the Select Committee for projects which would see all stakeholders in offender learning working in partnership at a national level to manage a significant change programme, for the benefit of all prisons and YOIs.

  City & Guilds values the work it is doing with the prison service to engage offenders in learning and skills development. We look forward to continuing and expanding this work to the benefit of learners and wider society.

December 2006

5   Para 48.2, House of Commons Education and Skills Committee, Prison Education, Seventh Report of Session 2004-05, Volume 1. Back

6   Para 48.1, House of Commons Education and Skills Committee, Prison Education, Seventh Report of Session 2004-05, Volume 1. Back

7   Page 8, Home Office: Basic Skills Programmes in the Probation Service: Evaluation of the Basic Skills Pathfinder. Home Office online report 14/04. Back

8   Section 6, Internet Access, para 225, House of Commons: Education and Skills-Seventh Report, Session 2004-05. Back

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