Nogbad’s Education

May 8, 2009

What does education do?

Filed under: OU, Teaching and learning — Tags: — nogbad @ 20:42

HMP/YOI RochesterJust thought I’d tie up a hectic week and try to tease out some thoughts.

Tuesday was talking to prison staff at HMP/YOI Rochester (the original Borstal) and on Thursday I attended an OU degree ceremony in a prison. This was a very moving event. We recognised the achievements of a number of prisoners including one who had earned a degree.

Of the many thousands of people in prison in this country only a few hundred will never be released, the rest will eventually have to find a way of surviving in a world which has moved on. And this raises an important question. What is the value of education in this context?

The audit commission report last year stated that the cost of prison education is £110M each year. Only a very small proportion of this goes on higher education, the bulk is on lower level skills and training including basic numeracy and literacy. Yet there doesn’t appear to be any coherent research on the value of education on reoffending. The question then, put simply, is “Does education help to reduce reoffending?”. There are some high profile success stories -Bobby Cummines attributes his transformation from one of the most disruptive prisoners in the system to founding “Unlock” to his Open University studies on release from prison. Eric Allinson spent much of his life in prison and now writes for The Guardian – he’s a passionate advocate of education in prison and recently wrote about the difficulties offenders still face while studying in prison. His piece and others reflect what we believe to be the value of offender learning but can we quantify this value? The government’s education policy is predicated on the presumption that a better qualified workforce will lead to an improved economy, and has been for many years, but does this hold true for offenders?

I’m still thinking about a research degree and this is the kind of area that I’m finding increasingly interesting. More to follow?



  1. Go for it, mate. As you say, there’s very little research on this- and you have got, as they say, a captive audience…
    I’d have thought a study comparing the British approach with thsoe used in Europe might be fruitful.

    Comment by Rob — May 8, 2009 @ 21:48

    • That research – regarding the varying approaches to education in prison – is interesting. In Scandinavia, for example, internet access is seen as a basic human need and prisoners can use computers linked to the web. There are lots of safeguards and audit trails available to make sure that offenders only use approved sites.

      Comment by nogbad — May 9, 2009 @ 17:27

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