Prison education in the spotlight

Prison education in the spotlight

Virtually every prison in the country uses OCR qualifications – vocational or academic.

Robert Mills Prison Education Insight Profile imageIn the latest issue of OCR's Agenda newsletter (pg 12-13), Robert Mills (pictured right), OCR's expert in adult and juvenile prison education, outlines his four key principles of prison reform.

Here, Stephanie Dowen, Functional Skills Programme Manager at Milton Keynes College, talks about tackling literacy and numeracy at the largest prison in the country - HMP Oakwood:

"Working as part of the team which delivers Functional Skills in English and Maths at the largest prison in the country, HMP Oakwood, which is part of Offender Learning at Milton Keynes College, has provided many challenges and some excellent opportunities. As with most prison education and indeed, education in general, the ‘basics’ of English and Maths, whilst much needed, are not the most popular subjects.

"Prisoners, in common with many other students, would rather undertake more practical courses..."

Prisoners, in common with many other students, would rather undertake more practical courses such as bricklaying or carpentry. In a bid to ensure that all prisoners have the ability to pursue their chosen course, G4S who manage the prison have taken the innovative step of making English and Maths mandatory for learners who have not achieved Level 1 qualifications in the subject. This partnership working between G4S and the education provider, Milton Keynes College is reaping benefits, because learners are increasing their skills levels and consequently, improving their future prospects.

The process starts with a robust diagnostic assessment, which includes English and Maths assessments, a free writing activity and an interview with each learner to assess their individual needs. As a consequence, learners are referred for Additional Learning Support promptly and interventions put in place to support individuals.

As part of our drive to enhance the learning experience, we have started to offer the OCR Cambridge Progression suite of qualifications as well as the full Functional Skill qualifications in English and Maths. This will enable us to tailor qualifications to learners’ individual needs, and offers the best opportunity for learners to progress.

Whilst there will always be restrictions beyond our control when working in offender learning, for example learners being transferred before they complete their course, we value the opportunity to work closely with an awarding body which specialises in this area of education, and understands and has the ability to respond to the needs of our clientele."

Stephanie Dowen
Programme Manager – Functional Skills, Milton Keynes College

OCR Offender Learning newsletter front cover image

Read the latest issue of OCR's Learning and Skills in the Justice Sector newsletter.

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