A Goldsmiths academic has called for an increase in funding for prison education after the government highlighted the benefits to inmates of the College’s Open Book scheme.
The Open Book initative aims to break down the barriers that discourage people from entering higher education with a focus on those from non-traditional backgrounds including ex-offenders.
The scheme’s work has been noted in a government response to a Report from the Education Committee entitled “Not just another brick in the wall: why prisoners need an education to climb the ladder of opportunity”.
In accepting one of the Report’s recommendations, the government response cited the work of Open Book with HMP Swaleside in Kent as an example of “strong partnerships with higher institutions”.
Responding to this inclusion, Open Book founder and Director Joe Baden OBE said: “It is encouraging to see our work recognised. It’s now up to the government to puts its money where its mouth is and increase funding for these vital initiatives so every prisoner can access learning and experience the wide range of benefits education brings.”
The Education Committee report released in May 2022 is critical of current provision, saying it is in a “poor state following a long-term decline in both the quality of education and the number of prisoners participating in learning or training”.
It sets out a number of recommendations the government must take in order to improve the prison system and the outcomes for those in the system.
Recommendation 28 says: Our Report makes it clear that education should be at the heart of the prison regime. The Government must look at innovative ways to make this a reality. We recommend that the Government establish a pilot scheme establishing specialised prisons with a focus on education, run in partnership with a local university, a further education college, or other recognised quality educational providers. (Paragraph 125)
The government has accepted this recommendation, and in its response published this week cites Open Book among “best practice in partnerships between education and training providers and prisons”.
The official response says: “We are also committed to developing strong partnerships with universities. There are numerous examples of prisons forming strong partnerships with higher institutions. HMP Swaleside, for instance, has partnered with Goldsmiths, University of London to deliver a bespoke course with content drawn from Humanities, Creative Arts and Social Sciences disciplines, with 30–36 prisoners participating each year. The course aims to serve as a pre-university ‘foundation year,’ preparing individuals for undergraduate study.”
Published on 27 September 2022, the government response adds: “We will continue to build further relationships through our Employability Innovation Fund.”