The Future of Prison Education Contracts: Delivering Better Outcomes

Published: May 2015

Nina Champion - Prisoner Learning Alliance

The current Offender Learning and Skills Service (OLASS) phase 4 contracts for prison education come to an end in July 2016. The Minister will need to decide whether to extend the current contracts for a further year, or to begin re-procurement.

The Prisoner Learning Alliance (PLA) welcomes the the successes of OLASS 4, in particular the increase in the numbers of prisoners achieving entry level, level 1 and level 2 qualifications, including in literacy and numeracy.

The OLASS 4 contract has aligned prison education provision with education providers in the community, which is focused on providing accredited employment-related qualifications. There has also been a positive focus on training prisoners to become peer mentors. However the PLA believes that there is much about the contracts that could be made to work better to produce the rehabilitation outcomes for prisoners we all want to see. This briefing sets out what areas within the current system need improving and how that could be achieved by changing the way the existing contracts work. We are very aware of the costs and disruption for staff and learners that comes with re-competition. To avoid this we would therefore recommend that the contracts are extended for a further year, subject to building in greater flexibilities and incentives to achieve better outcomes (as discussed in more detail in this briefing).