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Prisoners (Access to Education)

– in the Scottish Parliament on 21st January 2016.

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Photo of James Dornan James Dornan Scottish National Party

6. To ask the Scottish Government what steps it is taking to improve prisoners’ access to education. (S4O-05289)

Photo of Michael Matheson Michael Matheson Scottish National Party

The Scottish Prison Service has established a multi-agency steering group with representation from Education Scotland, Scotland’s Colleges, Creative Scotland and the Scottish Qualifications Authority to inform the core specification for a proposed new-generation learning and skills contract. The core intentions of the new contract are to provide a more creative curriculum and an expansion of higher and distance learning opportunities in order to improve access and stimulate interest in learning. Improved screening processes to detect literacy and numeracy problems and potential learning difficulties are a core feature of our new approach to promoting better access and higher levels of engagement.

Photo of James Dornan James Dornan Scottish National Party

Her Majesty’s Prison Greenock has a notable record in the field, and many of the things that the cabinet secretary just mentioned may well be taking place there. Can he assure me that the Government will look at what is being done there, and are there any plans to replicate that success across the rest of the prison service?

Photo of Michael Matheson Michael Matheson Scottish National Party

HMP Greenock does, indeed, have a good record on improving access to education for prisoners, as do a number of other establishments in the Scottish prison estate. Initiatives based around the visual and expressive arts have proved extremely successful in helping to stimulate engagement with education across the prison estate, with HMP Shotts receiving more accolades than any other prison in the United Kingdom at the recent Koestler Trust awards.

There has been significant international interest in the Scottish Prison Service’s model for the delivery of education in our prisons. The Scottish Prison Service continues to work with all its establishments and our education providers to ensure that best practice is captured and shared right across the prison estate.

Photo of Alison McInnes Alison McInnes Liberal Democrat

Education services are provided currently through a national contract. Would there be some benefit in pausing and considering whether regional contracts would be an improvement and allow a better transition from prison to community through the involvement of local colleges?

Photo of Michael Matheson Michael Matheson Scottish National Party

Under the current contract, two further education colleges provide education services right across the prison estate. The contract has been extended to next year, in order to develop the new-generation contract for the provision of education in our prison estate, as I set out. That will allow us to look at how we can continue to build on the good progress that is being made and, of course, to look at opportunities to build links between prisons and establishments in their local area, in order for education to continue when people leave prison and go back into the community.