Department for Business, Innovation and Skills
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Military style’ lessons to teach prisoners how to read and write

Military style’ lessons to teach prisoners how to read and write

News Release issued by the COI News Distribution Service on 02 August 2012

Prisoners will receive a boost to their chances of finding employment after their release, with intensive ‘military style’ maths and English classes, Business Secretary Vince Cable announced today.

The pilot will be carried out in six prisons in the North West, and will be based on the successful approach used for training new recruits in the Royal Navy, Army and Royal Air Force.

An example of an Army intensive programme consists of 35 hours of lessons in a one week block but with additional training for those who need it. The teaching makes literacy and numeracy relevant to the recruits’ day-to-day work and has been shown to boost their confidence and career progression, including those who had poor experiences of learning at school.

Skills Minister John Hayes, following an examination of the Armed Forces scheme, ordered that it be adapted to the prison environment - for example, by making lessons a compulsory part of popular courses like construction, and painting and decorating.

John Hayes said:

"This pilot is about ensuring prisoners are more likely to work than commit crime when they leave."

The programme will show offenders how important basic skills are when trying to get a job and stay in work. It will be taught at the start of their sentences so their studies are less likely to be disrupted.

Business Secretary Vince Cable said:

“Crime blights lives, both for the offender and the victim. That is why we are piloting this programme in prisons, so we can give prisoners the basic skills they need to get their lives on track and bring down re-offending rates.

“This shorter but more intensive approach means that it is less likely that their studies will be disrupted and by linking lessons to other vocational courses, prisoners are more likely to attain the skills that are needed to get a job and progress in life.”

Skills Minister John Hayes said:

“Breaking the damaging cycle of re-offending and re-imprisonment will not only turn around the lives of countless prisoners, it will also prevent the suffering of their potential victims and reduce the burden on the taxpayer.

“We are determined to make prisons places where people learn skills to build lives beyond crime. That is why we are piloting the successful Armed Forces’ maths and English programme so offenders can attain the core skills needed to secure a job after their release and go on to lead honest and productive lives.”

Justice Minister Crispin Blunt, said:

"The basics of English and mathematics underpin almost all other learning and skills. Assessing prisoners' learning needs, so they can better address the causes of their offending behaviour is at the heart of the reforms set out in the new offender learning strategy published jointly with BIS last year. The trials of the Army's approach to delivering these skills could particularly assist those with short sentences to emerge from custody better equipped to be positive citizens rather than return to offending.

“If we can improve prisoners' literacy and numeracy levels it will improve their chances of getting a job following release. Keeping employment is a key factor in helping to reduce re-offending.”

The pilot is part of the Government’s drive to cut reoffending, which costs the public purse between £9.5 billion and £13 billion a year (Source: NAO report). Research has shown that the vast majority (97 per cent) of offenders say they want to stop offending, and that the biggest factor in helping them to do so (68 per cent) is having a job.

Prisons taking part in the pilot include Manchester, Garth, Kirkham, Lancaster Farms, Styal and Altcourse.

Notes for Editors 1. The pilot will be a joint BIS and National Institute of Adult Continuing Education (NIACE) initiative to explore the feasibility within the secure estate of adopting elements of the successful Armed Forces’ intensive model of English and maths provision, and is being delivered through a successful local collaboration between Governors and prison education providers. Many prisoners have maths and English needs and many serve short sentences. It is thought that the intensive training over a shorter period will be an effective way of improving their basic skills, either at the start of a longer sentence or as a key element of a short sentence. The overall aim of such a model would be to enable prisoners to achieve qualifications and impact on their vocational training in order to support prisoners to get a job on release.

2. The Armed Forces Longitudinal Study was undertaken by the National Institute of Adult Continuing Education (NIACE) and the National Research and Development Centre (NRDC) over three years between 2008 and 2011. It focused on recruits assessed with low levels of literacy and numeracy skills levels at the start of their first two and a half years of training and service. The full study with executive summary can be found at The aims of the study were to assess the impact of literacy and numeracy skills on the personal and professional development of Service personnel and on their operational effectiveness, and to make recommendations for the most effective way for the Armed Forces to support their staff in their first two years of service.

3. The Ministry of Justice’s longitudinal study entitled “Surveying Prisoner Crime Reduction” aimed to track the progress of over 4,000 newly sentenced prisoners. It specifically aimed to assess prisoners’ problems and needs on reception into prison, how those needs were addressed during and after custody and the combined effect of any interventions on offending and other outcomes, in light of prisoners’ background characteristics, after release from prison. The first wave of the study quantified a number of important characteristics about the cohort and sought their perceptions on a range of subjects. When asked about what intervention prisoners would need help with to reduce the likelihood of reoffending, most prisoners valued assistance with finding employment (48 per cent), getting qualifications (42 per cent) and work-related skills (41 per cent) ahead of other help such as finding accommodation. The results from the Surveying Prisoner Crime Reduction survey can be found at:

4. The Government undertook a review of adult literacy and numeracy provision in 2011 focused on making this provision more effective. The outcomes were published in New Challenges, New Chances

. The Government’s economic policy objective is to achieve ‘strong, sustainable and balanced growth that is more evenly shared across the country and between industries.’ It set four ambitions in the ‘Plan for Growth’ (PDF 1.7MB) , published at Budget 2011:

· To create the most competitive tax system in the G20

· To make the UK the best place in Europe to start, finance and grow a business

· To encourage investment and exports as a route to a more balanced economy

· To create a more educated workforce that is the most flexible in Europe.

Work is underway across Government to achieve these ambitions, including progress on more than 250 measures as part of the Growth Review. Developing an Industrial Strategy gives new impetus to this work by providing businesses, investors and the public with more clarity about the long-term direction in which the Government wants the economy to travel.

6. BIS's online newsroom contains the latest press notices and speeches, as well as video and images for download. It also features an up to date list of BIS press office contacts. See for more information.


BIS Press Office

Victoria Heath
Phone: 020 7215 5950

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