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Prisons: Education

Volume 470: debated on Thursday 24 January 2008

To ask the Secretary of State for Justice (1) what steps the Government have taken to improve education and training provision in prisons since 1997; (175182)

(2) what progress has been made on developing an integrated Learning and Skills Service as indicated in the Government’s Reducing Re-offending National Action Plan.

I have been asked to reply.

The transfer of responsibility for offender learning from the Home Office in 2001, to the Department for Education and Skills, now the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills, brought the offender learning agenda within mainstream learning and skills arrangements. This led to the introduction of Heads of Learning and Skills, a new senior role within each prison responsible for co-ordinating delivery. Offender learning is inspected by Ofsted (and its predecessors) to the same standards as mainstream education, with published reports since 2002.

Between August 2005 and August 2006, the Learning and Skills Council completed the introduction of a new Offender Learning and Skills Service. This service is designed to integrate delivery both inside and outside prisons, as well as ensuring the quality is consistent with that available in the outside community.

The new delivery arrangements are governed by the policy framework set out in the ‘Reducing Re-Offending Through Skills and Employment’ Next Steps document, published jointly by the then Department for Education and Skills, the Home Office, and the Department for Work and Pensions in December 2006. Many of the further changes set out in the Next Steps document are now being piloted in our two test bed regions, the West Midlands and East of England.