David Cameron has announced that six 'reform' prisons are to be created in the UK as part of a pilot scheme to tackle high violence and re-offending rates.
In what Mr Cameron described as the "biggest shake-up of prisons since the Victorian era", he said prisoners should be seen as "potential assets to be harnessed" and that the "failure of our system today is scandalous". By allowing governors complete autonomy, including the amount of time spent outside of cells and participating in education, as well as the budget to invest in Offender Learning, it is hoped that the OLASS sector will be able to thrive.
Over 50% of prisoners have the English and maths skills of a primary school child. Many have learning difficulties, but at the moment, governors have almost no control over who their education provider is, or what is taught. Mr Cameron stated that "We’re focusing too much on the number of qualifications – regardless of their usefulness – and neglecting basic literacy and good-quality qualifications that are actually going to help these people to find work."
With six of the most 'innovative' governors being placed in charge of these new prisons, the future for Offender Learning looks very bright indeed. Sally Coates is expected to release her review into the prison education system very soon, with David Cameron announcing that they fully back the changes suggested in the report. This speech, as well as the Coates review, will mean there is a national spotlight on the sector, as well as an increased budget to make sure improvements are extensive and fast moving, which can only be a good thing in terms of bringing about the change and development in the sector that has been promised for years.
Mr Laws said "I am a firm believer in the power of education and have seen first-hand the difference great teachers can make. I look forward to working with Dame Sally Coates to establish a graduate scheme that will help to support our vision of placing high quality education at the heart of the prison regime."
These changes represent fantastic news for the OLASS sector. Graduate teachers will bring fresh ideas to prison education, as well as ensuring there is a consistently high level of education being taught throughout the sector.