|Previous Section||Back to Table of Contents||Lords Hansard Home Page|
The noble Baroness, Lady Garden, asked about ring-fencing. I think I have been clear but I want to be absolutely clear that the YPLA grant letter will ensure that the YPLA spends its funds as designated on education in a juvenile setting.
The noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, talked about the what and the how. As ever, it is helpful how these Committee debates crystallise thoughts. When we talk about the what, it is important that we, as the Government, set out clear expectations of what is expected. The YPLA will be our key agent in doing so. I have also heard clearly from discussion around the Committee
16 July 2009 : Column 1360
On the how, one of the most important aspects of this development is to ensure that local authorities have the opportunity to engage education in the juvenile custodial setting into the mainstream. This really struck me when I went to Feltham, talking to the staff there. They want to be part of a vibrant education community and to get cross-fertilisation and input from the mainstream. It is extremely important for us to develop that connection with local authorities.
Baroness Garden of Frognal: I thank the Minister for her reply. I am still not entirely clear on the ring-fencing. She assured us that the YPLA would have ring-fenced funding, but my question was more on what happened to that funding when it passed to the local authorities, and whether they would ring-fence the funding provided by the YPLA. Perhaps the Minister might write to me to clarify that point? She has indicated that she will.
Meanwhile, I thank the noble Lords, Lord Ramsbotham and Lord De Mauley, for their contributions to this debate. Issues of funding will require more clarification as we move through the Bill but, in the mean time, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
124A: After Clause 47, insert the following new Clause-
"Provision of educational courses for those persons detained in youth accommodation
(1) In designing educational courses for those detained in youth accommodation the appropriate authority must have regard to the desirability to institute short, modular courses to teach basic literacy and numeracy.
(2) These courses shall be between 2 and 8 weeks long.
(3) These courses shall be designed as part of a national framework.
(4) Particular areas may specialise in specific courses.
(5) There must be a regulated assessment in order to assess and monitor progress."
Lord De Mauley: We are already well into a series of debates this afternoon about young offender education. Our amendment is a probing amendment specifically to gauge the view of your Lordships' House regarding the provision of short, intensive, modular courses which concentrate on basic literacy and numeracy in order to ensure that time in youth accommodation is not wasted.
Many of those detained in youth accommodation have been excluded from school and so have not been receiving the education that they should. The report issued by Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Schools, Children and Young People in Custody 2006-08, shows that, of a sample of 2,500 young people held in prisons, 86 per cent of young men had been excluded from school and over a third were under 14 when they last attended.
These statistics demonstrate the vital necessity to provide real and effective education for children and young people while subject to youth detention in order
16 July 2009 : Column 1361
The Bercow review said that the Royal College of Speech & Language Therapists has estimated that at least 60 per cent of the 7,000 children and young people passing through YOIs each year have difficulties with speech, language and communication. This causes additional complications by making it less likely that the benefits of education or therapy will be absorbed. If not addressed, this can lead to an increased likelihood of reoffending. Short, intensive and specifically focused courses could, we suggest, really help to solve some of these problems.
I would contend that it is unrealistic to think that very long courses, with qualifications which appear at the outset to be in the far distance, are the most useful way of achieving this. It may, of course, mean that education would correspond more closely to that which takes place in schools, but that is not necessarily the most important factor. Many of these young people have been turned off by school already. Indeed, it is often a reason that contributed to their expulsion. I mentioned some statistics earlier. Further to those, reports from the Youth Justice Board show that 83 per cent of boys in custody have been excluded from school, and 41 per cent of boys and girls in custody were aged 14 or younger when they were last in school. All too often, those young people are moved around the system and so do not manage to complete their courses. This, I suggest, may have a more lasting and damaging impact on their self-esteem. It is also, frankly, a thorough waste of time. It is not, in our view, the way in which these young people should be treated. Many of them, as we have already discussed today, lack such basic skills as literacy and numeracy. Given these problems, it will be very difficult to ensure that the courses are successful and that people perform to the best of their abilities. It seems only sensible that we invest in basic skills now, so that they can reap the benefit of longer and more widely recognised courses later.
That is why we have tabled this amendment, which brings forward these short, modular courses which concentrate more specifically on improving literacy and numeracy. They could be designed as part of a national framework, so that while particular areas might specialise in a specific course, the courses could be designed on a similar structure, which would mean that people could transfer easily after completion from one course to another. We have also introduced the concept of a regulated assessment so that success and progress are properly assessed and monitored. We feel that the courses would be much more useful if there was a way of telling what people have achieved, so making it easier to build on their success should they have to move institution or return to youth accommodation later. Being able to see what level has
16 July 2009 : Column 1362
The Second Chance report from 2001-02 stated that,
We hope to build on this idea. The Children and Young People in Custody(2006-2008) report stated that 81 per cent of young men said that they were in education, and more than half said that they were learning a skill. However, even in the areas with the highest take-up of education, fewer than two-thirds said that they benefited from it. Surely this must be changed. It is important that we discover how a course of learning can be most beneficially structured to allow young people the best opportunity of improving their skill and learning level. It is even more important when one takes into account research by the Prisoners' Education Trust, which shows that for a cohort of 377 prisoners who attended education, the reconviction rate was less than half of the national average. I hope that our amendment has at least given some ideas which might stimulate a useful discussion. I beg to move.
Baroness Walmsley: From these Benches we think that there is a great deal to be said for the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord De Mauley. Am I right in thinking-perhaps the noble Lord would nod-that such short courses would follow the sort of assessment of the needs of the young person that we have been debating this afternoon? Yes, the noble Lord is nodding. That is fine, but we also need to consider those things which, in the normal course of learning to read, a very young child must have in place. I am referring particularly to listening and speaking. Many small children whose speech is not very well developed come into nurseries; the noble Lord, Lord De Mauley, has mentioned difficulties with speech and language. Nursery teachers and teachers in the early years of primary schools have to work very hard with those young people's speaking and listening skills before it is appropriate to start teaching them to read. That is why we on these Benches have some reservations about specifying phonics at too early an age. The professional teacher should decide the most appropriate time for a young child to be taught using them, because children's ability to speak, listen and communicate varies so much.
If the noble Lord's amendment included speaking and listening as a precursor to reading and writing for those for whom that is necessary, his short-course idea is good because so many young people in custody are there for such a very short period. He used another word that I thought important: the word "intensive". It does not appear in the amendment, but he used it several times when he moved the amendment and he is quite right. It may not be desirable for a young person to be in custody at all, but if they are you have to make the best of it and use every opportunity to send them out equipped with something that they did not have when they came in. That may mean their spending many, many hours a day working on their listening, speaking, reading, writing and numeracy skills.
In my experience of visiting young offender institutions and talking to the teachers in the education department, they use reading and writing very creatively and
16 July 2009 : Column 1363
As long as the noble Lord's amendment actually means all those things-if they are implicit in what he is looking for-we very much support this idea.
Lord Ramsbotham: Again, I put my name to this amendment, particularly because of the use of the word "modular". I very much welcome what the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, has just said. I have mentioned in the House before a two-year pilot of speech and language therapists in young offender establishments that was funded by Lady Helen Hamlyn. Unfortunately, the Government could not find the money for continuing with therapists in young offender establishments, but I hope they will restore them. One of the factors of the pilot was that people coming in were being helped with a speech and language difficulty, and the question was what happened when they went out. The therapists said that they needed twice as much time as they had been given for the custodial sentence and that there should be continuity.
That leads me to a question to the Minister that is slightly outside the narrow box of the amendment. Young offenders between the ages of 15 and 18 in the Prison Service are virtually all on detention and training orders, which this Government newly introduced. Half of the order is spent in custody and half under supervision in the community. The sentence plan for a detention and training order is the responsibility of young offender teams who are already the responsibility of local government. What one hopes to see in all those sentence plans instead of four months in prison and four months in the community is an eight-month sentence, some of which should be spent in custody and some in the community.
Although we have been talking very largely about young offenders and young offenders in prison, my question to the Minister is: does the writ of the local education authority run to the Probation Service as well? It has always seemed to me that there is no reason why the sort of courses that are run in prison should not be run for young offenders outside in the community. They do not need to go to prison for it. They all have exactly the same educational needs, learning difficulties, work skill requirements and so on. It has always seemed to me that that a community sentence, as conducted, would be much more positively received by the public if they felt that it had the same content as what was happening in prison-aiming to prevent reoffending-rather than doing something like painting out graffiti. This of course will work only if the writ runs to the Probation Service and those who are responsible for supervising people in the community, and for supervising the educational part of that sentence.
The Earl of Listowel: I warmly support what the noble Lord, Lord De Mauley, is driving at. I remember visiting Rainsbrook Secure Training Centre some time ago and speaking to a young man who had made immense strides in his reading during his short time in custody. He was going to go home and teach his
16 July 2009 : Column 1364
The noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, raised the importance of a topic approach. She reminded me of the very important work of the charity Youth UK, which was established in 1911 for the factory girls and works with young excluded people, such as those that the noble Lord, Lord De Mauley, described. Perhaps I may describe that work briefly. Youth UK brings a youth-work approach to educating these young people, and it uses a curriculum similar to a primary curriculum, which is very much thematically based. Its pedagogic approach is to engage young people through the activities that they really enjoy doing to teach them how to read, write and count.
I join in what the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, has said. There is not much point to giving children and young people in custody the same experience as they had in school, because they were turned off that experience. There needs to be the flexibility and creativity available in custodial settings to engage young people in a different and more effective way. I commend the work of Youth UK to the Minister.
Lord Elton: I very much welcome my noble friend's initiative and the support that noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, has received. I want to reflect on a couple of things. It may be a bit dangerous to specify the length of courses, in view of the fact that they should extend from the period in custody to the period in the community. On the other hand, it is essential to make the courses part of a national framework. They ought to be standard throughout the country because, so often, a young person will be in a host community in his prison, and in a home community for the second half of the sentence. It is important that both authorities should deliver the same programme. Finally, I am delighted that the proposed courses are modular, because that means that if a young person goes back inside-heaven forefend, but it happens too often-he can pick up and continue with the same qualification.
Baroness Blackstone: I recognise that this is a probing amendment, but I want to pick up on what the noble Lord, Lord Elton, has said, because it is consistent with the issue that I wanted to raise. It also relates to what the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, was saying about the need for continuity between educational programmes that are provided in custody with those that are to be provided in the community, post custody. We also have to recognise that if we are to move towards more non-custodial sentences for young people-which I very much hope we are-those sentences should incorporate education and training. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Elton, who said that we need to reflect on whether we should specify "between 2 and 8 weeks".
I also believe that a two-week programme, for many of the young people about whom we are talking, will not get them very far. The noble Lord, Lord De Mauley, mentioned that many of the young people, for example if they are 16, will not have been in any form of education since they were 13 or 14. They will
16 July 2009 : Column 1365
Baroness Howe of Idlicote: I warmly support these amendments. The exact timing of the courses may not be entirely sensible. On the other hand, we can regard them not just as courses but as something from which you can move on to more specific and relevant education, either still in the same institution as part of your course or sentence or when you are outside and, one hopes, getting back into work or an appropriate profession other than offending.
This brings to mind how things have not changed. It takes me back to my time as a juvenile magistrate in London, where for more than 20 years I was chairman of the court. The first thing that I did immediately a child appeared in court charged with an offence was to send for the attendance record. There was always a significant truancy record. One of my great regrets is that truancy has got rather blurred: these days we never hear exactly what it covers. However, what we certainly know-the figures have been quoted, so I will not repeat them-is that young people in prison have appalling inadequacies compared with the rest of the population when it comes to any form of learning. They have failed, we have failed them, and this is the result.
The idea that there should be assessments at the beginning of a young person's time in custody seems to have been accepted. Obviously, that is an excellent start; but I also hope that, whatever the courses are, they will include some involvement of the voluntary sector-perhaps not with the initial short courses, but as part of the business of learning how to communicate. Often you will find, for example, that somebody who is good at bridge and has a huge amount of enthusiasm can go in and start teaching young people this skill, which involves maths and basic literacy as well. I very much support the amendment and I hope that we shall hear from the Minister that it can be accommodated.
Lord Lucas: I thoroughly support the amendment. It gives me two particular moments of pleasure-little rays of sunshine from a cloudy sky. One ray is falling on my noble friend on the Front Bench: it is the first time that I have noticed our Front Bench supporting modular courses. At last they are beginning to see the other side of the argument. The other ray is falling on me: at last I am beginning to understand what benefits might come from giving responsibility for prison education to local education authorities. I thank the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, for the insight into how it would integrate both halves of a sentence under one management. I hope, too, that it will be allowed for in the way that the noble Baroness and her team set out the arrangements for commissioning the education in prisons that will be undertaken by local education authorities, ensuring that they will have enough flexibility
16 July 2009 : Column 1366
It is very important that we look at the idea of prison education being special and that we try to get away from at least the impression given in paragraphs (c) and (d) of new Section 18A(2) that in some way it should just be a continuation of what has failed before. Of course, for some youth offenders it will be appropriate that they carry on with their education-those who have done something immensely silly but are otherwise good students and just need to get back to real life. However, many pupils in prisons will have broken with education and will need to find a way back that is entirely different from what they rejected as school education.
My noble friend used two words that I completely support. One was "intensive". An intensive experience is much better than being stuck with an hour a day, and it provides much greater potential for transformation. The other was "communication". It is not just maths and English that these kids have not grasped; it is how to get on with, talk to and relate to other people. Those things can be equally well addressed-in fact, they can be extremely well addressed-in these short courses. Therefore, apart from the wording of the amendment, I am entirely happy with it.
Lord Elton: My noble friend has assumed that the management will be saying the same in both halves of the sentence. That of course assumes that the young offender is imprisoned in his own community, which, I fear, very rarely happens. However, the benefits that would flow from this are an important consideration. It also underlines what the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, said earlier about the desirability of having area clusters for prisons, whereby prisoners would more often be members of the community and would therefore receive the same education under the same aegis, both inside and outside the prison. Incidentally, it would be a wholly desirable move in the direction of getting prison more closely integrated with the rest of the world. One day, if we get the local community to pay for the local prison, the members of that community will start doing something about local offenders before they get there.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (Lord Young of Norwood Green): I fully agree that there should be a clear focus on literacy and numeracy skills in education provision in custody. Too many young people enter custody with poor basic skills, and custody can provide an opportunity for them to develop their skills and achieve qualifications, as many noble Lords have said during this debate.
However-this is a point on which a number of noble Lords commented-we consider that specific requirements about literacy and numeracy provision should be made in the statutory guidance, where we can better reflect how we expect local authorities to meet young people's needs. I reassure the Committee that we hope to have the statutory guidance available before Report so that noble Lords will be able to see what we mean by this.
|Next Section||Back to Table of Contents||Lords Hansard Home Page|