'Greenhouses not Warehouses': PLA launches new commissioning guide for governors

10 Oct 2017

On the first day of the Prison Governors Association annual conference, PET's Head of Policy Nina Champion and HMYOI Brinsford Governor Heather Whitehead teamed up to launch the new Prisoner Learning Alliance (PLA) resource, 'Greenhouses not Warehouses: Commissioning education to plant seeds of hope and opportunity'.

Read it here:

'Greenhouses not Warehouses' (Workbook)

Offender Learning and Skills Service (OLASS) contracts come to an end in 2018, making way for a new era of prison governor-led education commissioning. Prisons are being given increasing flexibility and control over education budgets and the ability to commission a wide range of provision. 

The workbook is designed to support prison governors and managers with this process.

Speaking at the launch, Governor Whitehead said the chance to take control of education budgets was a "huge opportunity" for governors, but was also challenging.  

"I've never commissioned services on this scale before, and the prospect is a little daunting," she said. "There is a real risk that due to the amount of other work we won't give it due regard." 

But the 'Greenhouses' guide offers real practical advice, guidance and support with the process, she said. 

"This is not a glossy brochure, it really does aid the practical delivery of the commissioning  process, and I'd highly recommend you have a look and complete the tool," said Whitehead. "I have already asked Nina to visit as I know how critical it is for us at Brinsford to make the most of this opportunity so the more help, the better."

The workbook takes governors through every step of the commissioning process, from selecting education that is keeping with the prison's overall vision and strategy; to identifying needs of specific populations, to forming effective partnerships. 

Nina Champion said choosing education that is right for the prison benefits not only individual prisoners but the institution itself. 

"Prisoners who are purposefully engaged, well supported by staff and peers and hopeful about their futures will be a positive influence on others, the prison culture and themselves," she said. "Thoughtful, appropriate education provision is a vital part of the solution. Knowing who and what is best for your particular prison population requires forward planning, good stakeholder involvement and a clear understanding of needs and evidence-base"

Prisons Minister Sam Gyimah wrote a forward for the guide. He said: 

"What does effective prison education look like? How do I tailor it to inspire the least accomplished prisoners, while stimulating those with qualifications? How ambitious should I be? This timely workbook will help governors make these key decisions. It is one more tool to help them make regimes more rehabilitative; one more tool for them to use as they challenge prisoners to turn their lives around."

Changes to education commissioning - stay up to date here

The PLA is gathering information and resources on the changes to education commissioning, which you can read here.

To stay up to date with announcements on this fast-moving area of reform, sign up to the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) online 'Sourcing Portal' here: