‘Outstanding’ ratings for prison education

20 May 2015

In January 2015, the inspection report of HMP Hollesley Bay showed that Learning and Skills had been rated as ‘Outstanding’ – a huge achievement as none received that rating in the Annual Report 2013/14. It followed in the wake of December’s Outstanding education results at HMP Askham Grange.

Nina Champion heard A4E staff from Hollesley Bay speak at the ERSA conference on Friday 15th May about their Outstanding Ofsted inspection. She writes:

“The PLA has invited them to present at the PLA conference on 11th September to discuss their success so I won’t steal their thunder with the full story of the inspection, however they did identify several things which they felt set them apart (many of which are discussed in the PLA education contract briefing and Smart Rehabilitation report):

  • Leadership: They had a clear strategy understood and enacted by all levels. There was a proactive Governor and Senor Management Team (SMT) and a good working relationship between the prison and the education provider, who were represented on the SMT.
  • Whole-prison inclusive learning culture: Inspectors found an environment of learning and skills that is inclusive across the prison - ‘education was not a silo’.
  • Aspirational: There were high expectations of both staff and learners.
  • Joined-up: Good partnership working for example with outside employers.
  • Engagement and progression: Range, breadth and levels of education, including progression to level 3.
  • Embedded learning: Integrated English and maths for example in workshops.
  • Learner voice: Feedback from learners effectively listened to through the Quality Improvement Group (QIG). They could show how the curriculum developed to meet needs of population e.g. changed basic IT for ‘IT for business’.
  • Peer observation: Standardised peer observation records and action plans.
  • Substance and evidence: It was not superficial for the inspection, there was substance and evidence behind everything that was seen on inspection. Staff were ready for inspection even though it was unannounced (and being August bank holiday many key staff on holiday) - ‘everything was already in place’.
  • Support with learning difficulties: They didn’t just offer learning support for those who self disclosed learning difficulties but those who staff thought needed additional support as part of a meaningful partnership apporach.
  • Employability: Classrooms were focused on employability with jobs boards and employer quotes. Employers had fed into the curriculum design.
  • Focus on outcomes for the learner not the contract outputs: Oftsed said that ‘learners were confident and prepared for work and in a strong position to take control of their lives after release’. Staff said they were most proud of this quote as ‘that is what it is all about. We focus on learner first, then fit the contract into place, rather than other way round’.