The House of Commons Education Select Committee has today published its report ‘Not just another brick in the wall: why prisoners need an education to climb the ladder of opportunity’.
The Open University is the primary provider of higher education in prisons and secure units in England and Wales, operating in over 150 prisons across the UK and currently has approximately 1,800 students a year in prisons and secure units. The OU was invited to give oral evidence to the committee as well as providing written evidence.
Key recommendations from the OU’s submission to the inquiry included:
- The Student Support Regulations for England and Wales should be amended to extend student loan eligibility to include people in prison who have more than six years to run on their sentence.
- Apprenticeships should be available to prison learners who are eligible for release on temporary licence (ROTL).
- Providing each student with a secure laptop for learning would make higher education more flexible, accessible, and promote digital skills. This would also help meet the needs of employers and would reduce the difficulty of moving physical materials around prison estates.
In-cell study should be classified as a purposeful activity to encourage more prisons to broaden their educational offer enabling students in prisons to select the course/type of learning most suitable to their needs.
Commenting on the committee’s findings, Professor Tim Blackman, Vice-Chancellor of The Open University, said:
“We welcome the Committee’s recommendations on removing the six-year rule and supporting digital education for prisoners.
“As the primary provider of higher education in prisons and secure units in the UK, we have seen the life-changing impact that education can have on prisoners. Education is a powerful tool, as our students testify, and has proven impacts on reducing re-offending and helping prisoners find employment.
“With some changes, to student loan eligibility, the widening of the apprenticeship programme and better secure IT provision, so many more people within the justice system could benefit from higher education and be able to seize the transformational opportunities it provides.”
Stephen Akpabio-Klementowski, Regional Manager, Students in Secure Environments at The Open University, said:
“I gained three university degrees while in prison. Now I’m a lecturer and a regional manager for prisoner learning at The Open University all because I got an education while serving my sentence. I tell the prisoners I work with how important it is to get an education to help them bring about change in their lives. It’s not easy and there’s so much more prisons can do to truly become centres for rehabilitation.
“Evidence clearly shows that any form of learning can reduce reoffending upon release for many prisoners.”
For more on Stephen’s story visit ‘I went from prisoner to PhD’ | BBC Ideas – YouTube