Speed read: Coates review of education in prison – the schools bits

Dame Sally Coates published her review of education in prisons today.

Michael Gove, as justice secretary, commissioned the review last September from the former headteacher and director of academies south for United Learning.

Schools Week has scoured the report for the parts that list what prisons can learn – and take – from schools.


What prisons can learn from schools


Schools Direct

Teachers should be able to train “on the job” in prisons, says Coates, citing Schools Direct as an example.

She suggests that providers and/or clusters of prisons develop a ‘Prison Direct’ teacher-training approach that might be particularly appealing for “career changers or those with industry experience who can support high quality vocational training”.

Schools are one of the places she suggests recruiting from, along with further education and industry.

Teach First

A graduate scheme modelled on Teach First is one of Coates’s “firm proposals”. The scheme would encourage graduates from top universities to work as prison officers for an initial period of two years.

Middle leaders to develop curriculum and CPD

In secondary education, middle leaders (e.g. heads of year, heads of department) support and develop pedagogy and curriculum expertise, ensuring all teachers can access high quality continuous professional development (CPD) linked with pathways of career progression.

Coates wants to see the development of similar staff in prisons. The charity Teaching Leaders is held up as a model organisation established specifically to develop outstanding middle leaders in the schools’ sector.

Specialist leaders working across clusters

Coates suggests specialist leader roles (e.g. in literacy, employment brokerage or special needs support) across clusters of prisons in order to share expertise and increase economies of scale, similar to sharing of expertise across multi-academy trusts.

Data recording and self-evaluation

In schools the RAISEonline system records demographic and performance data to enable comparison between individual schools.

Coates suggests a similar approach be developed for use in prisons so that prison governors have a clearer grasp of the educational profile of the prisoners for whom they are responsible.

League tables to drive up performance

Having seen how data can drive up performance in schools, Coates would like to see “prison league tables published, based on “progression measurements” to compare the performance of prisons. In the first two years, she suggests focusing on the best performing 25 per cent of prisons to “celebrate success and stimulate the sharing of learning”.


What prisons can borrow (or take) from schools


Secondment from teaching schools

One suggestion is that Teaching School Alliances could work with prison education departments, so that “outstanding colleges and schools near to individual prisons can share curriculum expertise in literacy and numeracy”, and explore the potential for secondment opportunities.

Recruiting middle leaders

There are many aspiring middle leaders in FE colleges and schools (particularly those in rural areas where leadership opportunities are fewer) who may be encouraged to work in middle leadership positions in prisons, suggests Coates.

She recommends developing clearer progression routes through to senior leadership in prisons, or with the education provider, in order to recruit and retain the most talented teachers and instructors from other sectors.

SEND experts from schools

To build the capacity of the workforce (leaders, teachers and officers) to work with prisoners with learning difficulties and/or disabilities, Coates would like to see prisons bringing in expertise from other sectors (e.g. special schools and pupil referral units).

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