Education and Skills Committee

3 November 2006

Prison Education

The Education and Skills Select Committee will be taking formal oral evidence on prison education from Ministers and officials on Monday 18th December 2006, from 3.45pm in the Wilson Room, Portcullis House.

This session is an important opportunity for the Committee to ask the Government about progress in provision of prison education against promises made in their response to the Committee's Report on Prison Education published in 2005 and the plans that were outlined to reform the delivery of service.

The Committee published its report on Prison Education in March 2005. The Government's Response was published in June 2005. The Government then published a Green Paper on Offender Learning in December 2005. The evidence session on 18 December comes 21 months after our report, and 12 months after the Green Paper was published.

The Select Committee Report found that "Current provision of prison education is unacceptable. Whilst the Government has provided a substantial increase in resources it is failing to fully meet its manifesto commitment to 'dramatically increase the quality and quantity of education provision'. 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." It said that "Prison education must rise up the Government's agenda. Purpose and commitment must come from Government leadership."

The report also recognised that "there are a number of barriers across the wider prison regime that are adding to the difficulty of successfully delivering prison education, including overcrowding and the constant movement of prisoners between prisons, described colloquially as 'churn'. Without changes to the wider prison regime, and without a strong commitment to reduce overcrowding and 'churn', it will be very difficult to achieve improvements in prison education."

In its response, the Government said that it "welcomes the attention paid by the Education and Skills Committee to the learning and skills provided for offenders in prisons. As the Committee notes, this area has in the past had too low a profile... The Government is heartened by the Committee's affirmation of the importance and value of education for prisoners, its key role in improving the employability of offenders and its mission to reduce re-offending." The Government's response welcomed "that many of the Committee's recommendations go firmly with the grain of current developments in offender learning and skills, and the plans that we have set out for the next 18 months to reform delivery of the service."

The Government promised that "the new Offenders' Learning and Skills Service, which the Learning and Skills Council (LSC) will deliver, has been designed explicitly to address many of the concerns that the Committee has raised. The service has at its heart the principle that education and training for offenders should be more flexible and learner centred. Providers of learning and skills will be required to assess offender need and deliver interventions according to the results of that assessment. Information, advice and guidance will be provided for offenders throughout their sentence and an individual record of their assessment and learning (the Individual Learning Plan) will accompany them as they move around the criminal justice system."

"Just as the new National Offender Management Service will provide a new integrated approach to the management of offenders, whether in custody or community, so the LSC will support an integrated approach to learning and skills for offenders, creating a seamless learning journey for offenders across prisons and probation and up to release."

The Committee welcomes written submissions regarding developments in prison education since its report was published in March 2005, which should arrive by noon on Monday 4th December 2006. These submissions will assist the Committee in preparing for the meeting with the Ministers and officials, and may be published alongside the transcript of the meeting.

Each submission should begin with a short summary in bullet point form. The paragraphs in the text of the submission should be numbered. A guide for written submissions to the Committee may be found on the parliamentary website at:

A copy of the submission should be sent by e-mail to and an additional paper copy should be sent to:

Education and Skills Select Committee
House of Commons
7 Millbank
London SW1P 3JA

All Committee publications and press releases are available on our website:

Information about the Education and Skills Committee

The Education and Skills Committee is one of the House's Select Committees related to government departments: its terms of reference are to examine "the expenditure, administration and policy of the Department for Education and Skills and its associated public bodies". The Committee chooses its own subjects of inquiry, within the overall terms of reference. It invites written evidence from interested parties and holds public evidence sessions, usually in committee rooms at the House of Commons, although it does have the power to meet away from Westminster. At the end of each inquiry, the Committee will normally agree a Report based on the evidence received. Such Reports are published and made available on the Internet. Copies are sent free to those who give oral evidence. Reports usually contain recommendations to the Government and other bodies. The Government by convention responds to reports within about two months of publication. These responses are also published.