To stop reoffending, learning must be a priority

10 Oct 2013

PET welcomes Ofsted’s announcement today at HMP Wormwood Scrubs and calls on the Government to ensure learning in prison is a priority for the rehabilitation of prisoners.

During its annual lecture, Ofsted highlighted that no prison has been rated outstanding in the past four years, only 35% were judged to be good and if those figures were published on schools there would be a "national outcry".

Rod Clark, Chief Executive, PET said:

"We know that education can stop people from committing crime, every day we hear from prisoners and ex-prisoners who tell us ‘education transformed my life’ and we welcome Ofsted’s commitment to improving the poor levels of performance. This is particularly relevant at a time when the UK is being criticised internationally for its low literacy and numeracy skills of adults.

"The Government has recognised that reoffending rates are too high and with costs estimated up to £13billion per year, it is also too expensive. But to give people a realistic chance to break this cycle of reoffending they need skills and therefore learning must be a priority in the regime and culture of prisons, more prisoners should be supported to become students and the quality of education in prisons must be improved."

PET’s research report Brain Cells has highlighted the barriers to learning in prisons including frequent transfers, lack of opportunities to progress to higher levels and insufficient embedded learning to make education more engaging and relevant.

While there is good practice in some prisons unfortunately this is not found right across the prison education system.

This announcement follows Tuesday’s report by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) which found literacy and numeracy rates of young people across the UK are worryingly low. For marginalised groups like prisoners, the results of educational achievement are lower than the general public, 47% of prisoners say they have no qualifications compared to 15% of the UK population.

As ex-prisoners with qualifications and jobs are less likely to reoffend, PET would like the Government to prioritise learning, training and skills while people are in prison. The Ministry of Justice has recognised that education is the answer for young offenders but more must be done to rehabilitate all prisoners effectively.

This is essential to reduce the UK’s high reoffending rates as nearly half of adults are reconvicted within one year of release, rising to 73% of under 18 year olds.

Editor’s Notes

For interviews, photos or further information please contact Susannah Henty, Media Manager:; 020 8648 7760 or visit Case studies and interviews with former prisoners whose lives have been transformed by education are available on request.


The NAO have estimated the annual cost to society of prisoners re-offending on release at up to £13bn.

The need to improve the standards of prison education has been highlighted by HMP inspections published throughout 2013 and during Ofsted’s annual lecture 2013.

The Ministry of Justice has carried out research both on educational achievements of prisoners and reoffending rates.

About PET

Since 1989, Prisoners' Education Trust (PET) has supported prisoners to engage in rehabilitation through learning. The charity does this by providing advice and funding for approximately 2,000 people per year for distance learning courses in subjects and levels not generally available in prisons. PET also carries out research, informed by prisoner learners, to improve prison education policies.

In 2012 PET launched the Prisoner Learning Alliance to work together with 18 other expert organisations to champion learning for people in prison.