Thursday, 25 March 2010


Today I spent some time with a group of Open University students. The group included two OU graduates, one of whom is now studying for a Masters degree in International Development. They are part of a group of sixty or so OU students studying in HMP Swaleside, a B cat prison on the Isle of Sheppey. In total more than 100 men in Swaleside are studying through distance learning; that's more than 1 in 10 of the total prison population. Sadly changes in the way prison education is funded mean that they are unlikely to be given the support needed to continue studying.

The Learning and Skills Council (soon to be replaced by the Skills Funding Agency) have shifted funding so that distance learning, any learning over NVQ level 2, isn't going to be supported by the education teams in prison. This means that anything above GCSE level will not be supported. Distance learning encompasses more than just Open University studies, it also includes vocational courses from providers such as ICS who offer City and Guilds accredited courses in electrical and mechanical engineering.

Education in prison helps with rehabilitation and if people are to be fit for being released into society it's important that they have the skills and education needed to contribute. Curtailing the opportunities for learning can only lead to more men and women being unable to readjust to life outside.

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