All prisoners are expected and enabled to engage in education, skills or work activities that promote personal development and employability. There are sufficient, suitable education, skills and work places to meet the needs of the population and provision is of a good standard.

In England, this part of the inspection will be conducted by Ofsted. To ensure that prisons are held accountable to the same standard of performance as further education colleges in the community, we have chosen to explicitly adopt Ofsted’s common inspection framework, which explains the different style of this section of Expectations. For prisons in Wales, see Expectation 73.

72.1. The leadership and management of education, skills and work activities effectively improves outcomes for prisoners.

Ofsted’s common inspection framework (CIF) sets out the overarching criteria for judging the effectiveness of leadership and management of education, skills and work activities. In making this judgement, inspectors will consider:

  • How successfully ambitions for the prison’s performance, including its aims to reduce reoffending and facilitate prisoners’ reintegration back into society, are set, reviewed and communicated with staff, prisoners, employers and other partners, and the impact this has on the quality of provision and outcomes for all prisoners.
  • The extent to which leaders and managers collaborate with other partners to ensure that the range and content of the provision is aligned to local, regional and, where relevant, national priorities.  
  • The extent to which the prison has sufficient education, skills and work provision for its population, the availability of accredited courses, and the proportion of prisoners who benefit.
  • The effectiveness of the allocation and attendance measures in ensuring prisoners attend their activity on time and with minimal interruptions.
  • How successfully leaders and managers secure and sustain improvements to teaching, learning and assessment through high quality professional development and robust performance management.
  • The rigour of self-assessment, including through the use of the views of prisoners and, where applicable, employers and other stakeholders, and how well it secures sustained improvement across the prison’s work, including any subcontracted provision.
  • The strategic priority prison leaders and managers give to the provision of English and mathematics to ensure that prisoners improve their levels of English and mathematics compared with their starting points to aid progression to future employment and their plans for rehabilitation on release.
  • How effectively leaders and managers monitor the progress of groups of prisoners so that none are disadvantaged or underachieve.
  • How well governors/directors and senior managers provide challenge and hold staff, partners and other stakeholders to account for improving the impact and effectiveness of the provision.
  • The extent to which managers and providers promote all forms of equality and diversity through education and skills and work activities, and foster greater understanding and respect.
  • The extent to which pay rates encourage self-improvement and prisoners are paid fairly, accurately and on time.
  • The extent to which prisoners receive thorough and impartial careers guidance to enable them to make informed choices about their current learning and future careers and resettlement plans, and how effectively learning plans are linked with and take account of prisoners’ sentence plans.
  • How effectively (including through access to modern means of job search and job application via the internet) prisoners due for release are encouraged and supported to progress to suitable further education, training and employment on release.
  • How effectively leaders and managers monitor the progression and destination of their prisoners (including whether prisoners enter secure and sustained employment) and use this information to improve provision.
  • The extent to which release on temporary licence (ROTL) is used to enhance prisoners’ employment or training skills and prepare them for release.

72.2. Prisoners benefit from good quality teaching, learning and assessment.

Ofsted’s CIF sets out the main criteria for judging the quality of teaching, learning and assessment. In making this judgement, inspectors will consider the extent to which:

  • Teaching and assessment methods and resources inspire and challenge all prisoners and meet their different needs, including the most able and the most disadvantaged, enabling them to develop their knowledge, skills and understanding.
  • Prisoners are supported to achieve their learning goals in learning sessions and at work.
  • Staff have qualifications, training, subject knowledge and experience relevant to their roles and use these to plan and deliver learning appropriate to prisoners of all abilities, to reflect best industry practice and to meet employers’ needs.
  • Trained peer mentors are deployed to work closely with staff to provide focused individual guidance and help.
  • Staff identify prisoners’ support and additional learning needs quickly and accurately through effective initial assessment, leading to the provision of high quality and effective support to help them achieve as well as they can.
  • Staff work with prisoners to ensure that teaching, learning and assessment are tailored to enable them to make good progress and prepare for their next steps and/or their targets in their sentence plans, where appropriate.
  • Staff assess prisoners’ progress and standards of work, and ensure that assessments and reviews are timely, regular, fair, informative and reliable.
  • Prisoners receive clear and constructive feedback through assessment and progress reviews so that they know what they have to do to improve their skills, knowledge and understanding to achieve their full potential.
  • Teaching, learning and assessment promote equality, raise awareness of diversity and tackle discrimination, victimisation, harassment, stereotyping, radicalisation and bullying.
  • Staff are aware of and plan for individual prisoners’ diverse needs in teaching, training and work sessions and provide effective support, including for prisoners with English as a second language. Staff make reasonable adjustments for prisoners with disabilities or with additional educational needs.
  • Teaching, learning and assessment and work activities support prisoners to develop their skills in English, mathematics and employability, including appropriate attitudes and behaviours for work, in order to achieve their learning goals and release plans.

72.3. Provision successfully promotes positive personal development and behaviour.

Ofsted’s CIF sets out the main criteria for judging personal development and behaviour. In making this judgement inspectors will consider, where relevant and appropriate:

  • The extent to which prisoners take pride in their work; they become self-confident, self-assured and know that they have the potential to be a successful learner on their current and future courses, including in work activities.
  • How well the provision reduces reoffending (for example through money management and personal development courses) and promotes employability skills so that prisoners are well prepared for the next stage of their education, employment, self-employment or training.
  • How well prisoners develop the personal, social and employability skills, including in English and mathematics, required to achieve their core learning aims, and how well they appreciate the importance of these skills in the context of their next steps and rehabilitation plans.
  • The extent to which prisoners achieve the specific units of their main vocational qualifications and relevant additional qualifications that enhance their learning and are likely to increase their future employability.
  • The extent to which prisoners’ employment-related skills are recognised and recorded.
  • The extent to which prisoners’ standards of work are appropriate to their level of study and/or the requirements of the relevant industries and workplaces, so that they can work effectively to realistically challenging academic or commercial deadlines and standards.
  • Prisoners’ use of the information they receive on the full range of relevant career pathways from the prison, YOI and other partners, including employers and the National Careers Service provider, which help them develop challenging and realistic plans for their rehabilitation.
  • The extent to which prisoners feel and are safe, and have a good understanding of how they can raise concerns if they do not feel safe when attending education and skills and work activities.
  • Prisoners’ understanding of their rights and responsibilities as a learner in education and skills and work activities, and where relevant, as an employee, citizen and consumer in the community; and how well they work cooperatively with others in all settings and promote good and productive working relationships with their peers, employees and employers.
  • The extent to which learning activities, including those available to support prisoners who are eligible for release on temporary licence (ROTL), allow all prisoners to explore personal, social and ethical issues.
  • How well prisoners are motivated to attend their learning sessions and work activities and the extent to which they show a positive attitude to developing their skills.
  • Whether prisoners in education and skills and work activities comply with any guidelines for behaviour and conduct stipulated by the prison, and manage their own feelings and behaviour at work and during learning sessions.

72.4. Outcomes and achievements for prisoners engaged in education, skills and work evidence substantial and sustained progress.

Ofsted’s CIF sets out the main criteria for judging outcomes for learners. In making this judgement inspectors will consider, where relevant and appropriate, the extent to which:

  • Prisoners make progress during their education and training and work compared with their starting points, with particular attention to progress by different groups of prisoners.
  • Prisoners achieve learning goals, including qualifications, and, where appropriate, targets in their sentence plans.
  • Prisoners’ work meets or exceeds the requirements of the qualifications, learning goals or industry standards.
  • Prisoners enjoy learning and make progress relative to their prior attainment and potential over time.
  • Prisoners progress to further learning and employment or self-employment relevant to their skills action plans or equivalent.
  • Prisoners attain relevant qualifications so that they can and do progress to the next stage of their education into courses that lead to higher-level qualifications and into jobs that meet local and national needs.
  • Prisoners with severe and complex additional educational needs and/or those with disabilities gain skills and progress to become more independent in their everyday life and/or progress to employment.
  • There are any significant variations in the achievement of different groups of prisoners.

Further resources

Life in prison: Earning and spending money

This findings paper is part of a series which focuses on daily life in prisons and young offender institutions (YOIs). It summarises literature surrounding earning and spending money in prison.

Resettlement provision for adult offenders: accommodation and education, training and employment

A joint thematic review by HM Inspectorate of Prisons, HM Inspectorate of Probation and Ofsted (September 2014)

Ofsted: Handbook for the inspection of education, skills and work activities in prisons and young offender institutions from 1 September 2017

Human rights standards

There are detailed human rights standards relating both to the right to work (UDHR 23; ICESCR 8) and the right to education (UDHR 26; ICESCR 13) in the prison context. Standards relating to prisons emphasise that work should never be used as a punishment, should be of a useful nature, equitably remunerated, and equip prisoners with a vocation they can use on release. Remand prisoners should have the opportunity to work. Prisoners should be employed for a normal working day and have at least one rest day per week. Standards also focus on prisoners’ earnings, health and safety and social security systems. See SMR 96, 97, 98, 101, 102, 103.2, 116; EPR 26; BPTP 8. See also CESCR General Comment 23.

Human rights standards are clear that all prisoners should have access to comprehensive educational programmes that meet their individual needs, with special attention given to those with educational needs. Education should enjoy similar status as work within the prison regime. See SMR 104; EPR 28. See also ECOSOC resolution 1990/20 Prison Education; UN Special Rapporteur on Education, The right to education of persons in detention (2009).