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Last Updated: Sunday, 2 April 2006, 23:12 GMT 00:12 UK
Prison teachers 'lose out on pay'
By Katherine Sellgren
BBC News education reporter

prison classroom
Teachers in prisons could earn more in colleges, says Natfhe
Tutors in England's prisons are paid less than their colleagues and have poorer working conditions and fewer holidays, a lecturers' union claims.

Many college staff teaching in prisons are paid up to 5,000 less than their counterparts working in colleges, the further education union Natfhe says.

Natfhe says poor pay and job insecurity is leading to a high turnover of staff.

The warning comes a year after MPs called for greater recognition of the specialist role of prison teachers.

Prison tutors are usually employed by a further education (FE) college which has a contract with prisons to provide classes for inmates.

Natfhe claims many colleges use two different pay scales: one for regular campus staff and one for those working in jails.

"There is a discrepancy of salary - colleagues on campus earn more, their conditions are better and they have better holidays," Christiane Ohsan, Natfhe officer with responsibility for prisons, told the BBC News website.

Prison teachers are the Cinderella of the service
'Brian', prison tutor

Ms Ohsan said prison staff often worked more hours than their college counterparts and cited one college where prison staff were contracted to work 950 hours a year, compared to 828 for college campus staff.

"They are all professionals - there should be no difference between them," she said. Ms Ohsan said the discrepancy in pay, often as much as 5,000 a year, dated back to the early 1990s, when many colleges put in bids for prison work on the basis of cost effectiveness.


Ms Ohsan said most people went into prison education knowing what the job entailed and that it would be difficult and tough, but she said their desire to help a vulnerable group in society should not be abused.

One teacher working in a jail in London said it was routine for prison teachers to work for less.

"None of us gets the same pay as we would lecturing in an FE college," said Sarah (who did not want her real name to be published).

Sarah said this sent the wrong message to inmates.

"If we as teachers do not receive recognition and respect, why should the people we're teaching believe it's possible for them to get respect?"

An English teacher in another London prison said teachers in his field were overlooked and their goodwill taken advantage of.

"Prison teachers are the Cinderella of the service and yet it's not just teaching, it's the social aspects too, such as counselling," said Brian (not his real name). So why does he still choose to work in this field?

"Because I enjoy it - it's challenging, it's teaching," he said.

"A lot of the guys and women we teach come from disadvantaged backgrounds and education is the key to get them back into society."

'Not made aware'

The Association of Colleges said it was not aware of such differences in pay and conditions.

behind bars
Prison teachers often serve a social role

"Colleges are independent organisations which set their own rates of pay - this includes college staff who work within the offender learning service," said Evan Williams, AoC employment policy manager.

"We do know that colleges pay lecturers who work within the offender learning service in line with their colleagues situated on campus.

"We have not been previously made aware of Natfhe's claim regarding specific disparities between prison and college lecturer pay packets."

The AoC said it would be willing to discuss the matter further if Natfhe approached the association.


Natfhe also highlighted the fact that the majority of tutors working in prisons are in part-time employment and often lose out on training and development opportunities.

And the union is concerned about the number of staff on yearly contracts who suffer anxiety every year as they wait to see if they still have a job.

"All of that and there's a high turnover," said Ms Ohsan. "Paying them more is one way of valuing them and one way of keeping them."

The education select committee's report on prison education - published a year ago - was critical of many aspects of education provision for prisoners, including the high turnover of teaching staff within the sector.

The cross-party group of MPs noted how recent changes to the provision of prison education had caused uncertainty, leading to many experienced and highly qualified teachers leaving their posts.

And they called for a special needs co-ordinator to be in post in every prison, as well as learning support assistants.

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