Please note: The expectations for Education, Skills and Work have been revised to incorporate Ofsted’s new inspection framework, which came into effect on 1 February 2020.

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 Education Inspection Framework, which explains the different style of this section of Expectations. For prisons in Wales, see Expectation 73.

72.1. Prisoners benefit from good quality education, skills and work.

Ofsted’s Education Inspection Framework (EIF) sets out the main criteria for judging the quality of education, skills and work. In making this judgement, inspectors will consider the following factors:

  • Leaders and managers have selected and developed a curriculum that develops the knowledge, skills and behaviours (including English, mathematics and information and communication technology) that prisoners need to take advantage of the opportunities, responsibilities and experiences that prepare them for their next stage in education, training or employment within the establishment or on release.
  • It is clear what the curriculum is preparing prisoners for and what prisoners will need to be able to know and do at the end of their learning or training programmes.
  • Leaders, managers and teachers have planned and sequenced the curriculum so that prisoners can build on previous teaching and learning and develop the new knowledge and skills they need.
  • The curriculum takes into account the needs of prisoners and offers them the knowledge and skills that reflect the needs of the local and regional context where they are likely to be released.
  • Teachers, trainers and instructors have expert knowledge of the subjects that they teach.
  • Teachers enable prisoners to understand key concepts, presenting information clearly and promoting discussion.
  • Teachers check prisoners’ understanding effectively, and identify and correct misunderstandings.
  • Trained peers are deployed as mentors to work closely with staff to provide focused individual guidance and help.
  • The curriculum is sequenced so that new knowledge and skills build on what prisoners know and can do and prisoners can work towards defined end points.
  • Teachers use assessment to develop prisoners’ understanding to extend and improve their skills beyond simply memorising disconnected facts. Assessment also checks prisoners’ understanding to inform further teaching, training and instruction.
  • The design and delivery of the curriculum and teaching, including the use of assessment, ensure prisoners embed key concepts and knowledge to long-term memory and are able to apply concepts and knowledge consistently and easily.
  • Prisoners’ employment-related skills are recognised and recorded.
  • Release on temporary licence (ROTL) is used to enhance prisoners’ employment or training skills and prepare them for release.
  • Pay rates encourage self-improvement and prisoners are paid fairly, accurately and on time.
  • Prisoners make progress from their starting points, attaining skills, behaviours and, where appropriate, qualifications.
  • 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.
  • Prisoners with learning difficulties and/or disabilities and those with Special Educational Needs and Disability (SEND) gain knowledge and skills and progress towards rehabilitation and to becoming more independent in their everyday life, and/or progress to employment.
  • Examinations are used as useful indicators of prisoners’ outcomes, but it is recognised that they only represent a sample of what prisoners learn.
  • Learning takes account of prisoners’ sentence plans.
  • All learning builds towards an end point. Prisoners are being prepared and are ready for their next stage of education, training or employment, in the prison or on release, at each stage of their learning.
  • Provision reduces reoffending and promotes employability skills so that prisoners are well-prepared for the next stage of their education, employment, self-employment or training in the prison or on release.

72.2. Provision successfully promotes positive behaviour and attitudes.

Ofsted’s EIF sets out the main criteria for judging behaviour and attitudes. In making this judgement, inspectors will consider the following factors:

  • Prisoners feel safe and experience a calm and orderly environment in the prison’s classroom, workshop and workplace.
  • Staff and prisoners do not accept bullying, harassment or discrimination.
  • There are clear expectations for behaviour across education, skills and work activities.
  • There is a strong focus on attendance and punctuality at education, skills and work areas.
  • Staff deal with any issues quickly, fairly and effectively.
  • The prison supports a culture in which staff know and care about prisoners and prioritise their attendance at education, skills and work.
  • Prisoners take pride in their achievements and the work they complete.
  • Prisoners understand the importance of the skills learnt in the context of their next steps and rehabilitation plans.

72.3. Provision successfully promotes personal development.

Ofsted’s EIF sets out the main criteria for judging prisoners’ personal development. In making this judgement inspectors will consider the following factors:

  • Prisoners are encouraged to develop into responsible and respectful individuals who know how to become involved in prison and the community when on release on temporary licence (ROTL).
  • Prisoners are helped to understand the values of democracy, individual liberty, the rule of law and mutual respect and tolerance.
  • Equality of opportunity, awareness of diversity and the need to tackle discrimination are promoted.
  • The importance of an inclusive environment that meets the diverse needs of each prisoner is promoted.
  • Prisoners are supported to reflect carefully, learn eagerly, behave with integrity and cooperate consistently well with others.
  • Prisoners are supported to develop their confidence, resilience and knowledge as ways to improve their mental well-being.
  • Prisoners are provided with an effective careers programme that offers advice, experience and contact with employers, where appropriate, to encourage them to make informed choices about their current learning and future career plan. Learning plans are effectively linked with and take account of prisoners’ sentence plans.
  • Prisoners are supported to prepare for the next phase of education, training or employment, within the prison or on release.
  • Prisoners due for release are effectively encouraged and supported to prepare and progress to suitable further education, training and employment on release, including through access to modern means of job search and job application, such as the internet.

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

Ofsted’s EIF 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 the following factors:

  • Leaders focus their attention on the education, skills and work-related activities in a way which leads to better outcomes for prisoners such as reducing reoffending and continued and sustainable improvement.
  • Leaders engage with prisoners, their community and employers to plan and support the education and training that prisoners receive.
  • The prison has sufficient education, skills and work provision for its population and appropriate learning opportunities are available.
  • Allocation and attendance measures ensure prisoners attend their activity on time with minimal interruptions.
  • Continuing professional development for teachers, trainers, instructors and other staff is aligned with the curriculum, and this allows teachers to develop subject expertise and teaching/training knowledge over time, so that they deliver high-quality education and training.
  • Prisoners benefit from effective teaching/training and high expectations in classrooms, in workshops and at work.
  • Leaders consider the workload and well-being of their staff, and improve the quality of the workforce to strengthen the quality of the provision.
  • Leaders and those responsible for governance understand their respective roles and carry these out to enhance the effectiveness of the prison.
  • Leaders and managers have an accurate understanding of the prison and their providers’ and subcontractors’ effectiveness.
  • Leaders and managers monitor the progression and destinations of prisoners (including whether prisoners enter secure and sustained employment) and use this information to improve provision.

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 April 2019 (383.56 kB)

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).