Second chances for ex-offenders through education

Opinion on 20th May 2016

The Coates Report: The Longford Trust welcomes Dame Sally Coates' review of Prison Education

At the launch on May 19 of Dame Sally Coates’ review of prison education, Unlocking Potential, Michael Gove, the Secretary of State for Justice, endorsed the report in unequivocal terms, pledging to implement its recommendations in full “without hesitation”.  This is tremendous news for all those currently serving prison sentences who aspire to do Open University modules, or aim to continue their rehabilitation by going to university on release.

For among the review’s recommendations are:

(1) the restoration of some funding from the public purse to help those doing Open University modules while in prison;

(2) the wider availability of student loans for serving prisoners with more than six years of their sentences to go (currently they cannot access the student loans system);

(3) more provision of guidance for prisoners considering taking out student loans to explain to them the benefits and costs;

(4) more encouragement for serving prisoners to do Level 3 and above courses (A Level and above) with effective backing from the prison education team;

(5) a relaxation on the current blanket ban on serving prisoners accessing the internet to progress their education;

(6) greater use of ROTL (release on temporary licence) to enable serving prisoners to attend Further Education colleges and Universities on day release;

(7) reform of the current “risk assessment” processes used by Further Education colleges and Universities when they receive applications from those with criminal records, so that they are treated in line with the guidelines on good practice promoted by UCAS.

These seven represent a small proportion of the total number of recommendations, but we highlight them because they relate directly to issues that our Longford Scholars have encountered on their educational journeys. Their inclusion in the final report demonstrates the benefit of having a representative of the Longford Trust, in the shape of our director, Peter Stanford, as a member of Dame Sally Coates’ Review Panel. 

When Mr Gove acts on his promise to implement these particular recommendations, it should remove some of the obstacles that currently prevent larger numbers of young serving- and ex-prisoners realising their goal of getting a degree in order to rebuild their lives.  Since we know that getting an education reduces reoffending, it will also benefit the wider community if more young men and women who have been in prison are able to go on to university, get well-paid jobs and become once again full and contributing members of society.

The full text of the Coates report is now available on the UK Government website

It is recommended reading for all those who want to get a picture of the backdrop against which we run our Longford Scholarships' scheme.   For those with limited time, Chapter Four (page 38) on Higher Level Learning is particularly relevant to what we do.

In the Observer 22 May 2016 the Longford Trust director, Peter Stanford gives a personal report of his experience while working on the Coates Review.

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