Letter: Cuts and continuity in prison teaching

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The Independent Online
Sir: In reply to the article by Adam Sage (27 July) about plans to privatise prison education, I should like to make the following points.

Teachers in prisons need considerable experience and a high degree of professionalism to work in an environment that is pressurised both for them and their students. Currently there is a body of experience and expertise that has been built up over the years. If education is contracted out to other cheaper bodies, this will be lost.

Certainly at New Hall, but also in other prisons, the education department is the main supporter of interdisciplinary activities, both in the prison and with outside agencies. The working relationship and personal trust that has been built up between individual teachers and prison officers, administrative staff, probation staff and prisoners is unique. Prison education is more than just 'teaching'. It is vital that the teaching staff are involved in all the other prison activities. Again, this accumulated expertise and tremendous skill is in danger of being jeopardised.

It would seem ludicrous to threaten one of the few successful areas of some prison regimes, for even in the most damning report from Her Majesty's Inspectors of Prisons the education department is frequently the one glimmer of hope in a depressing environment.

Finally, I should like to correct the impression given at the end of the article that infers it is only prisons in the South-east that have been affected by budget cuts. This is incorrect. There have been cuts in education budgets throughout the country. At New Hall there has been a considerable cut in the materials and equipment budget, while colleagues in other prisons in this area have also had their staffing budgets cut.

Yours sincerely,

A. MORDUE

Education Officer (Acting)

New Hall, HM Prison & Young Offender Institution

Flockton, West Yorkshire

29 July

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