Charlie Taylor, head of a government review into youth justice, says prison education 'lacks sufficient focus' on functional skills courses, such as English and Maths.
Charlie Taylor is a former headteacher and government adviser on behaviour in schools, and was commissioned by justice secretary Michael Gove in September to report on how the youth justice system can be improved.
Speaking at the Prisoners' Education Trust's symposium in London, Mr Taylor insisted that prison education needed to substantially increase the focus on literacy and numeracy skills. The Prisoners' Education Trust (PET) is a charity working across 125 prisons in England and Wales to help people in prison to achieve their potential through learning, being one of the biggest supporters of education in prison, encouraging policy makers and parliamentarians to recognise the positive impact that tailored education provision has in prisons.
Mr Taylor specified that while he has seen excellent vocational training going on, “It has never been more important that children have good literacy and numeracy skills. There are few jobs anymore that do not require good levels of literacy and numeracy and, however they go in, children must not leave prison unable to read."
Children in Young Offender Institutes' are often expected to achieve far less than those outside of these institutes. For a child in normal secondary or further education, it would be unnacceptable to leave without the basic knowledge of literacy and numeracy, yet this is so often not the case. Children in these establishments need to be given the same opportunities as any other, with the chance to reach their full potential and turn their lives around.
Mr Taylor also said prisoners needed to train in subjects in which they were likely to work in once they leave prison, rather than simply being placed in the classes they enjoyed most. For example, a student with a low level of literacy or numeracy, may struggle to gain suitable employment in areas such as ICT, but could be an excellent candidate in a certain vocational area, such as carpentry.