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Last Updated: Thursday, 15 December 2005, 02:25 GMT
Inmates 'to be trained for work'
Coldingley prison
Pilot training schemes have cut reoffending rates to almost nil
The government has published plans for a programme to improve prison education in England.

It is hoped better training will help reduce the numbers of inmates who re-offend on release. Currently, 53% of those freed commit further crimes.

A Green Paper says a prime purpose of prison should be to educate inmates.

It also urges closer co-operation between the prison service and employers, to try to ensure prisoners gain the skills the economy needs.

It's quite important because first of all it passes the time and secondly I'm learning something and it's quite useful
Inmate, Coldingley Prison
Employers are to be encouraged to recruit ex-offenders.

Almost 80,000 prisoners are in jails in Britain, most of whom have had a poor education.

Pilot schemes which involve training prisoners, and offering them a job on release, have brought re-offending rates down to almost nil, says BBC education correspondent Mike Baker.

Yet last week a report by the Adult Learning Inspectorate said more than half of prisons offered "inadequate" training.

Patrick welding
Learning a trade can help prisoners keep away from a life of crime

And in March, a report by MPs found half of inmates lacked the skills needed for 96% of jobs available on their release.

Only a third had access to formal education, lasting on average nine hours a week, the Commons education select committee found.

The Green Paper, which seeks to address some of the concerns raised by MPs, was published by the Department for Education and Skills, the Home Office and the Department for Work and Pensions.

The Forum on Prisoner Education broadly welcomed the publication of the paper, but said there was "a mountain to climb" in terms of persuading employers to recruit ex-offenders.

The forum is also concerned the government is overlooking academic education in prisons, in favour of vocational studies.

"What we mustn't do is lose track of academic qualifications," said the forum's director, Steve Taylor.

Training programmes

At Coldingley Prison near Woking, prisoners are being offered specific training programmes, reflecting the government's aim for prison education.

Patrick has been working in a prison workshop for three years and has been welding for a year and a half.

Stephen on forklift truck
At Coldingley prison, inmates can train as forklift truck drivers

"It was difficult when I started, but I know the job now," he said.

"I think it's quite important because first of all it passes the time and secondly I'm learning something and it's quite useful."

Stephen has qualified as a fork-lift truck driver whilst in the prison and hopes to use the skill once he is released.

"It's the best job in the establishment and it makes the day go a lot quicker to be honest and it is useful obviously because I can use it on the outside," he said.

Coldingley governor Paul McDowell said education and training was the key to rehabilitation.

"It's absolutely vital. We're a training establishment and we're seeking to rehabilitate and resettle offenders back into the community," said Mr McDowell.

"And our core goal is to reduce crime - that's the point of the work we do."

Adult skills drive 'inadequate'
07 Dec 05 |  Education
Prisoners 'need better education'
31 Mar 05 |  Education

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