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HM Inspectorate of Prisons: Report on HMP Greenock - February 2006

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7. LEARNING, SKILLS AND EMPLOYABILITY

Background

7.1 All aspects of learning, skills and employability ( LSE) come under the responsibility of the Inclusion Manager. A Prisoner Employment Manager is responsible for work parties and vocational programmes. The Learning Resource Centre Manager is responsible for learning provision. The SPS contract for the provision of LSE in Greenock Prison started on 1 April 2005, and is held by Motherwell College.

Staffing and Resources

7.2 All staff involved in LSE are suitably qualified, committed and enthusiastic. All learning centre staff hold suitable professional qualifications and all officer instructors are qualified tradesmen working towards their A1 assessor awards. LSE staff are committed to delivering a high quality and relevant service to prisoners. Operational managers provide effective leadership to their teams, and were communicating a clear vision to staff about the future direction of work within their responsibility. However, LSE provision overall lacks a strategic vision designed to promote communication and collaboration.

7.3 The new learning resource centre opened three years ago and staff had influenced its design. It offers a high standard of accommodation for learning, including specialist areas for ICT and art. However, some teaching areas are small. The accommodation used by vocational workshops is suitable for purpose, but a lack of space limits prisoner participation. Accommodation for physical education is good overall.

7.4 Prisoners and staff have access to a good range of resources to support LSE activity, well suited to the client group. The learning centre has access to an adequate number of PCs. Skill-based workshops were using sufficiently up-to-date and relevant equipment for current employment. Prisoners do not have access to the internet which resulted in them being unable to complete certain qualifications.

7.5 A library is situated in the learning resource centre and each of the accommodation blocks. An organised lending system had operated previously, but currently prisoners simply take books that they want without the need to return them. No records are maintained about who is taking books and which books they are taking. Books are donated from local charities and so prisoners have only very limited influence on what is made available. Learning centre staff contact the local libraries service if a prisoner requests a particular book. The range of books available in Darroch Hall is not well matched to the current prisoner mix. The central library resource takes up valuable space within the learning centre, and consideration should be given to whether the books held there would be better distributed to the accommodation blocks.

Access to Learning, Skills and Employability

7.6 All prisoners are introduced to LSE opportunities during induction. The prison operates the SPS Core Plus model, enhanced to offer opportunities to those on remand who have an indictment. There are sufficient work places for long-term prisoners, but insufficient for those on shorter sentences. Attendance at learning centre programmes is often well below capacity due to an insufficiently rigorous system of allocating and monitoring LSE activities. Learning centre staff have responded by increasing their anticipated list of attendees beyond the capacity of the unit in an attempt to maintain numbers.

7.7 Prisoner access to leisure-based and certificated physical education ( PE) has increased by 50% in six months. Prisoners can access PE during evenings and on Sundays. The range of activities offered has expanded, and staff offered an holistic approach to health and fitness through good links with health professionals, the Links Centre and the learning centre. These are areas of good practice.

Assessment of Need

7.8 All prisoners attending induction complete an 'Alerting Tool' intended to highlight significant need in literacy and numeracy. This is further researched by use of the Basic Skills Assessment where required. The learning centre use this, and other, information from the prisoner to create an agreed Individual Learning Plan or Learning Log as appropriate. Just under 80% of prisoner learning hours are dedicated to the provision of support for basic skills.

7.9 Processes for assessment of need are comprehensive and robust. Learning centre staff have created a computer database to track all aspects of progress, including anticipated dates for review. Staff in work parties refer prisoners for literacy and numeracy support from the learning centre as required, although staff had worked more closely to provide appropriate support for prisoners until recently.

Delivery of Learning

7.10 Almost all staff were engaging well with prisoners, capturing their enthusiasm and using an appropriate range of methods. Staff prepare very well for activities and classes, making good use of pre-prepared materials which are well designed. Commendably, VT staff have been collaborating with other prisons to make standard certificated course materials more suitable for the prison environment and prisoners. Staff use a range of approaches to maintain interest and to match the needs of the group, including groupwork, direct teaching, practical work and simulation. Staff are aware of prisoners' needs and aspirations and spend time ensuring that the learning experience is relevant to them.

Prisoners' Learning Experiences

7.11 Classrooms in the learning centre are well decorated and well ventilated, providing a suitable learning environment. Staff in vocational work parties have made good use of available space, but some spaces are small. Prisoners are encouraged to take responsibility for their own learning and are able to collaborate and support each other. Staff make effective links between prisoner's learning experiences. Prisoners use ICT to research designs which they then use to decorate trinket boxes. They also use ICT to write letters to family and friends.

7.12 Prisoners were very positive about their experiences in LSE. They were particularly positive about their acquisition of skills which could be used on release. Prisoners' views of LSE are regularly sought through weekly focus groups. This provides important feedback to staff and has resulted in a number of changes to both programmes and delivery. Physical education staff have invited local people with additional support needs into the gymnasium. Prisoners are able to work together with these people, and the initiative has resulted in work placements. This is an area of good practice.

Achievement

7.13 Physical education did not offer any accredited courses before 1 April 2005. They are now delivering Heartstart and Manual Handling qualifications, with plans to extend this further. Staff were also developing Scottish Progression Awards in work parties. Although at an early stage, staff planned to roll these out to all work areas. The learning centre operates a cash incentive scheme to promote achievement. Prisoners were achieving a range of qualifications from access three through to higher and an HNC in Legal Studies.

7.14 Learning centre staff have successfully secured Lottery funding to support work in drama and the creative arts. Overall, however, the prison should continue to increase the range and breadth of accredited opportunities, and should develop ways of celebrating success and recognising achievement.

Ethos and Values

7.15 Staff enjoy a good working relationship between the LSE provider and the prison. The Inclusion manager maintains a regular overview of progress towards targets. VT staff work collaboratively and refer prisoners to the learning centre for literacy and numeracy support. However, the lack of an overall vision and strategy for LSE provision within the prison is impeding collaborative working and limiting positive outcomes for prisoners.

7.16 Relationships between staff and prisoners in LSE activity are almost universally good. Relationships amongst prisoners in workshops and classes were positive, helped by the relaxed atmosphere. Staff create a positive ethos of achievement, particularly in classes leading to a clear output or qualification.

Quality Assurance

7.17 All staff comply rigorously with the procedures required by awarding bodies for accredited courses. They compile reports for SPS on progress towards targets on a monthly basis, and the learning centre had recently been subject to a secondary assurance check conducted by SPS staff. The Inclusion manager holds regular meetings with operational managers to discuss progress. However, LSE provision does not operate a quality assurance system to ensure continuous improvement of teaching and the learning experience.

Summary

7.18 LSE provision is good. Prisoner learning experiences are good and opportunities for gaining accredited qualifications were improving. However, the lack of a coherent strategic vision for LSE provision had resulted in the different LSE providers not working sufficiently closely together. Prisoner learning experiences would be further enhanced by the development of shared targets and complementary programmes.