Select Committee on Education and Skills Written Evidence

Memorandum submitted by the Prison Governors Association

  1.  You were concerned about overcrowding and "churn", and its disadvantageous effects upon prison education. Since March things have got worse. Since July, the only spare accommodation in our service has been in the open estate, from which large numbers of foreign nationals were removed in the middle of the year. These places are difficult to fill, particularly in our current, risk averse, climate. The Service has had to do so by moving inmates close to discharge—and consequently less likely to abscond—to open conditions. We recognise that this is not helpful in terms of education, skills training or of preparation for release, but the Service must make full use of the finite accommodation available.

  2.  We have to recognise that the education system has failed a huge number of people in our prisons. Most were able to cope with primary schools, which tend to be smaller and able to offer some individual attention. Many are unable to cope with the more impersonal and stressful life which they experience when they move to larger secondary schools. Perhaps the real need is to address the problems faced by those who are not able to cope with mainstream education—many of whom are in care and suffer from multiple deprivations—before they are finally swept up and put into our overstretched prisons, which are increasingly performing a social service "backstop" function for which they were never intended.

  3.  Strides are being made by the new "Learning and Skills" process for offenders, but it is, in our view, almost impossible for Learning and Skills Councils and prisons (which are very different organisations trying to work together) to make a profound difference to the lives of people who have very largely either avoided, or been excluded from, educational opportunities in their early years; because both organisations are being overwhelmed by the numbers of people coming to prison.

December 2006

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