Dame Sally Coates review, Unlocking Potential: A Review of Education in Prison, is the first time for a long time that education in prison has been systematically analysed with a view to radical change.
The publication of the review, on the same day as the Queen’s speech which heralds a new system of prison governance and outcome measurement, is symbolic of Government emphasis on improving what and how prison can deliver to wider society as well as to the people it directly affects.
The Coates review cannot respond to all the changes people in prison, their families and staff might want to see; but it does deliver a range of recommendations and suggestions for doing things differently, some of which, at least in the short term, Safe Ground agrees are eminently sensible.
The review recognises, for the first time and in concrete terms, the essential value of both arts education and of relationships programmes and support. For Safe Ground and many of our colleagues, this will be welcome recognition of the engagement, progression and contributions to overall achievement individual learners, families and institutions can make.
Safe Ground is responsible for a wide range of relationships programmes in prison and the community and the Coates review gives good indication that each one will be technically supported and encouraged (at Governors’ discretion) in prisons nationally. Family Man and Fathers Inside both involve graduates from the programmes as mentors on further programmes; something the Coates review is keen to develop.
Our work with Novus to train and develop the facilitation skills and confidence of teachers in prison is another significant aspect of the review we feel confident will add enormous value to the improvements Dame Sally hopes to achieve.
Our programme of support to Prison Officers will enable teams of mixed grade Officers and managers to consider how they can further embed, encourage and support education as part of the Whole Prison approach and we are optimistic about the impact of this approach. Safe Ground’s newer programmes, Man Up and Our Own Stories both fit the Personal and Social Development curriculum and we are pleased to see the Coates review has taken into account the varying and widely ranging educational experiences and needs of learners in prison. The emphasis on recognizing learning difficulty and disability and of simultaneously aiming to enable higher level and continuous education is something Safe Ground programmes intend to support.
Safe Ground is committed to developing social capital and improving the well-being of people in prison and local communities through the arts and education and we very much hope the implementation of the recommendations in the Coates review will support and enable the Governors and staff who so often express their desires to deliver high quality services and programmes, to do so.
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