Education in the prison system
For over 30 years, in prisons across England and Wales, we have been working with men, women, and children, providing access to education and opportunities for employment upon release.
Over 47% of prisoners in the UK don’t have any formal education qualifications. Trying to break the cycle of reoffending is impossible without introducing the importance of education to our learners. By working with partner organisations and our education teams, we can provide the best opportunities for our learners to succeed upon release and enter their communities rehabilitated and ready to give back.
We operate in over 50 prisons and secure environments in England and Wales, offering a variety of education provisions for our learners to match the needs of a constantly shifting job market.
What are the benefits of prison education?
Prison education has been shown to offer many benefits:
Improved employment prospects
Research has shown that individuals who receive an education in prison are 13% more likely to find employment opportunities on release. 57% of prisoners in the UK have low levels of literacy, meaning that many entry level jobs are off limits to them. Novus supports prisoners to learn to read and write, which helps them upon release in their job search.
With the estimated annual cost of reoffending at £15 billion, not only is prison education and training beneficial for our learners, it’s also incredibly cost effective for businesses and our communities. Investing in prison education can save money in the long run by reducing the number of people reoffending and returning to prison.
With recruitment and onboarding costs soaring with the cost of living rises, the benefit of seeking talent through our channels is becoming more and more clear. We involve employers in our curriculum creation, making sure that our learners are gaining the important industry standard skills that will help them succeed in their roles on release.
In doing this, we create a pipeline from education to employment and help businesses train future employees, creating a pool of talent to source team members.
Studies have shown that prisoners who take part in educational programs while in prison are less likely to reoffend and return to prison after release.
Education can help prisoners gain the knowledge and skills they need to lead a productive life upon release and can also help them develop self-esteem and self-discipline.
Through our network of partner organisations and the expertise of our education team, we have been able to respond to the needs of our most vulnerable learners. A study in 2016 found that as many as 32% of learners in prison were self-reported as having learning difficulties/disabilities.
As a provider of education in prisons and rehabilitation services we have the opportunity to address the effects of any negative experiences in education at an early age and encourage those with learning disabilities to re-engage with their learning.
Positive Impact on the Community
Prisoners who have access to education and job training are more likely to become responsible and contributing members of society, which can have a positive impact on the community as a whole.
What are the challenges to prison education?
One of the biggest hurdles to our provision is that many prisoners have a weak history of formal education, with many of them arriving in our classrooms with no qualifications and lacking a trust in the system to help them. We work hard to rebuild this trust and engage them in fun and creative sessions, while encouraging them to study further with us in our Vocational, Digital, English and Maths classes.
Beside the fact that many of our learners have a negative view of education, a significant challenge is that they move amongst different prisons. This encourages us to maximise our time with the learners. Luckily, after 30 years in prison education, we have a flexible and efficient approach to education in our prisons, offering each learner the tools that they need to succeed in our provisions.
We work with our educators to make sure that the change is as seamless as possible by providing assessments when they are inducted into new establishments. Operating nationally, our educators and administrators also have a keen understanding of how to navigate the intricacies of education in secure environments, meaning that we can track learner progress as efficiently as possible.
What educational courses are on offer?
In both our adult and youth programmes, we always offer a wide range of vocational and academic courses for our learners to participate in. In Novus education facilities, learners can expect to partake in English and Maths, as well as digital skills classes. These subject areas provide a basis for our learners to grow on and are fundamental to success in their lives post-release.
Our vocational subjects are vast, and largely depend on the facilities available in each establishment. In many of our locations, for example, we offer bricklaying, joinery, and hairdressing; all skills that can lead directly into employment.
In many cases, we work with employer partners to ensure that our learners are gaining relevant skills that will benefit them upon release. For these subjects, we also look to employ colleagues who have experience in the field and are therefore able to give first-hand insights into how to prepare for a career.
Creative Enrichment in prison education
Another major component of our curriculum is our creative arts education offering. Our education teams work with a variety of organisations and onsite resources to provide creative enrichment activities for our learners.
Enriching and engaging creative arts programmes, courses, initiatives, and opportunities for learners support their health and well-being and improve behaviours and attainment.
Incorporating English, maths, digital and vocational skills into these programmes help to re-engage learners with education and build a positive future.
Through approaches like drama classes, book clubs, painting, and music, we provide a softer introduction to education for many individuals who have limited academic experience. Getting learners involved this way makes it easier to engage them in more practical studies, while still building on fundamental skills like creativity and teamwork.
Who provides prison education in the UK?
Here at Novus, we work in partnership with prisons, partner employers, and charitable foundations and organisations across England and Wales to supply the education offering at each location.
With over 50 locations, our specialist teams of education professionals help adults and young offenders develop skills and confidence that improve employability post-release from prison and ultimately reduce re-offending.
Providing education to adults and young people in custody allows them to have a better chance at breaking the cycle of reoffending and enhances the opportunities that are available for them to succeed on release.
If you’d like to learn more about the benefits of prison education for our learners and the communities that they enter, listen to our podcast, Inside Learning: Talking Prison Education.