Russell Webster

Russell Webster

Criminal Justice & substance misuse expert and author of this blog.

A new way of delivering prison education

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The Ministry of Justice is overhauling the way that education is provided in prisons, providing new opportunities for smaller and/or local organisations to get involved.

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This is a guest post by Hasna Khanom, Policy Officer for Prison Education at the Ministry of Justice.

The education provided to men and women in custody is a vital part of their rehabilitation, helping them to build skills and access employment when they are released. Studies show that prisoners who take part in education are 7.5% less likely to reoffend on release, and that the reoffending rate for those who secure a job drops by between 6% and 9%.

It’s vital that we make sure prisoners are accessing the right education for them – and the education that’s most likely to lead them into a good job on release. Because of that, the Prison Education Team at the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) has completely changed the way that education is delivered in prisons – putting power in the hands of governors and opening up the prison education marketplace to more, smaller and/or local organisations.

We want to get as many organisations, education providers, colleges and charities as possible to take part in this new world of prison education, to make sure we are providing governors and their prisoners with the widest variety possible.

What are the changes to prison education?

Prison education is outsourced. Currently all prison education in England is delivered by four large providers, chosen by headquarters. Our new plans change that, and will offer a chance for organisations of all sizes to be involved in delivery, and for governors and their teams to decide whom they work with.

We are empowering governors by devolving their budgets to them and giving them new routes to commission their education providers. All “core” provision – maths, English, English for speakers of other languages and information and communication technology – will come from the Prison Education Framework (PEF). The Tender closed for this in June, bids have been evaluated and we expect to confirm which bidders will be awarded Framework contracts in September.

Other provision – vocational training – can come from the PEF provider or can be commissioned through another commissioning route – the Dynamic Purchasing System (DPS).

What is the Dynamic Purchasing System?

The DPS is a mechanism for governors to purchase short-term, bespoke education and training courses. It is designed to be flexible, so that governors can adapt the education they are offering to meet the needs of the changing local labour market, and create new links with local employers. Providers will be listed on the DPS, and governors can “call-off” from it when they have planned their curriculum and designed their specifications. Call off’s can happen at any time of the year.

The MoJ wants as many local providers as possible to sign up to be on the DPS.

Should I get involved?

The DPS is designed to be very simple for both providers and governors. It is easy for providers to join the DPS, and it is easy for them to bid for call-offs. There aren’t strict conditions for joining and the bidding process (to join and for call-offs) is designed to be straightforward and not resource-intensive

It is also intended to provide equal access to the market for all providers – so governors will be required to use fair and transparent evaluation at all points.

Opportunities will appear on the DPS throughout the year rather than at specific points.

To hear more about the DPS, please register on Bravo:  as we have created a market engagement PQQ. This is where we will post further information and opportunities and where suppliers should submit any queries relating to the procurement. 

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