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HM Inspectorate of Prisons: Report on HMP Perth




Prisoners take part in activities that educate, develop skills and personal qualities and prepare them for life outside prison.

7.1 There are good opportunities to participate in education and work. The learning centre, library and gym are excellent facilities. The quality of education is high. Young offenders in Friarton hall also have the opportunity to undertake study in the community, although there are not enough of them gainfully employed.


7.2 The SPS contracts Carnegie College to deliver 36,000 prisoner learning hours each year. This provision is managed by the Learning Centre Manager and a team of full-time and part-time tutors. A wide range of educational and vocational training programmes are delivered to remand and sentenced prisoners with a total of 80 sessions being held each week.

7.3 SPS staff oversee vocational workshops and production areas where prisoners develop vocational skills and engage in a range of activities including laundry, cleaning and catering to meet the needs of the prison.

Access to Learning, Skills and Employability Provision

7.4 During induction, prisoners are given information on provision within the Education Unit and vocational training opportunities. There is a robust referral and follow-up system in place whereby prisoners can access opportunities in education or in vocational training at a later stage after induction. Education staff follow this procedure through visits to the libraries in the residential wings and in Reader in Residence sessions. Education programmes are promoted effectively through the Learning Centre prospectus and promotional literature in the halls. In vocational programmes, staff allocate prisoners to appropriate work parties or training opportunities through discussions held at Labour Allocation Boards.

7.5 The Education Unit has capacity for 30 places each morning and afternoon. There are extensive waiting lists for the more popular classes such as Introduction to Hospitality. The Unit is closed in the evening and does not offer evening classes. Remand prisoners have access to education sessions but not to vocational training. Segregation and protection prisoners have access to education and vocational training sessions on a limited basis due to the available capacity.

7.6 There is a limited range of qualifications available within industrial workshops and vocational training programmes. The kitchen offers an SVQ Level 1 to seven prisoners but there are no other certification opportunities available for work parties in the other workshops. The approval for certification for the BICS courses lapsed last year although the prison intends to reintroduce these courses shortly. In vocational training sessions, the prison offers National Progression Awards ( NPA) in painting and decorating, plumbing and bricklaying. However, there are no progression opportunities onto higher level certification for prisoners who have already achieved the NPA standards.

7.7 The library is located in the Links Centre and is staffed by a librarian from Perth and Kinross Council. She delivers a highly efficient and effective service to over 370 prisoners who are registered with the library service. Convicted prisoners have access to over 4000 books, periodicals and other media within the prison library and can request other resources from the wider Perth and Kinross library service. Prisoners access the library one afternoon per week, although access by prisoners from 'A' and 'B' halls is not as good as by prisoners in 'C' hall. Remand and segregated prisoners can access books within satellite libraries based within their halls. The Reader in Residence ensures the satellite libraries have an appropriate supply of books to meet prisoner demand. The service offered by the prison library is an area of good practice.

Assessment of Needs

7.8 All prisoners have the opportunity to test their literacy and numeracy skills by using an alerting tool during induction. The tool aims to identify prisoner literacy and numeracy support requirements. However, this tool has been in use for some years and does not capture sufficiently the full range of additional educational needs that prisoners may have, such as dyslexia. After induction, there are no systematic procedures in place to help identify prisoner's additional support needs. Those prisoners who have additional needs rely upon prison staff to identify their requirements and refer them onto the Education Unit staff or by self-referral procedures to the Education Unit. The prison should pursue the use of an alternative and more effective alerting tool which identifies the full range of prisoners' additional support requirements.

7.9 The prison is developing an employability protocol with external agencies through an employability group to help prisoners reintegrate into the community with improved employability skills. Although at an early stage of development, prisoners are placed at an appropriate point on an "employability pipeline" to help them access support from employment agencies or gain further training upon liberation.

Delivery of Learning

7.10 Staff are well prepared and their lessons are well planned. They provide high levels of individual support to ensure prisoners make good progress as they proceed through their course. Staff in the Education Unit make very effective use of three prisoners who have been appointed as Peer Tutors. Prisoners welcome the role of the Peer Tutor. They help prisoners on a one-to-one basis in the Education Unit which enhances the learning experience for prisoners and supports them in developing their skills and knowledge. An additional six prisoners are currently undergoing Peer Tutor training.

7.11 Staff in the gymnasium are very flexible in ensuring that most prisoners have access to physical education during the week. The gym is well utilised and is busy throughout the week.

7.12 Approximately 60% of prisoners undertake physical activity in the gym on a weekly basis. Staff in the gym are well experienced and qualified to deliver their programmes.

7.13 There are good arrangements for prison and learning centre staff to work together in the planning and delivery of provision across education and work-based activities. This results in opportunities for prisoners to gain and receive recognition for core, vocational and wider skills whilst undertaking prison activities.

Prisoner Learning Experiences

7.14 Accommodation in the Learning Centre consists of a computing suite, art room, training kitchen and other multi-purpose classrooms. Most rooms provide a comfortable and relaxed environment for learning with good access to ICT, although the art room is small for the numbers of learners who use it. The training kitchen provides sufficient space to deliver catering programmes and is well utilised by prisoners.

7.15 There are very good resources in the plumbing, bricklaying and painting and decorating workshops. Industry standard machinery is utilised in the woodwork workshops. The gymnasium uses modern equipment and prisoners are very satisfied with the standard of gym facilities. The availability and standard of the gym facilities is an area of good practice.

7.16 Prisoners are motivated and engaged in their classes and are progressing well. Staff in the education unit and vocational training workshops work well together to provide additional support in literacy and numeracy for prisoners. Prisoners on vocational programmes can access courses in the Education Unit up to three times per week without a reduction in their pay.

7.17 There are very good relationships in the workshops and these ensure that prisoners are on task with their work and engaged in purposeful activity. However, prisoners in the woodwork workshops complained that at times there was not enough work to keep them occupied.


7.18 There are high attainment rates in education and vocational training programmes. In almost all cases, prisoners attain their individual units of study. However, fewer attained full certification of their programme as the full range of units for successful completion is not delivered. Prisoners are making good progress in the development of vocational, personal and social skills.

7.19 Prisoners are prepared well for release from prison through the Job Club programme. They are supported with the help of JobcentrePlus to compile their own curriculum vitae, to complete job application forms and to improve their job interview techniques. A range of external agencies including a national housing association help prisoners with their personal needs upon their liberation. Prisoners and staff are also involved in a number of charitable events. These events have helped to raise significant amounts of money for good causes and to develop prisoner's individual citizenship skills. The use of local community work-placements has recently declined and currently very few prisoners benefit from this service. The establishment has explored opportunities for increasing community placement opportunities for the young offenders in Friarton hall.

Ethos and Values

7.20 There are good relationships between staff and prisoners. This creates a positive atmosphere in which prisoners appreciate and work well with each other and with staff.

Staffing and Resources

7.21 All learning, skills and employability ( LSE) provision within the prison is delivered by SPS staff who are well-qualified and experienced to deliver the programmes. Absences by staff with vocational specialisms results in certain workshops being closed until the staff return to duty. Most staff in the Education Unit hold a Teaching Qualification in Further Education or equivalent.

7.22 Accommodation in the Links Centre, workshops and gymnasium is of a good standard. Classrooms in the education unit are equipped with up-to-date computers and ICT equipment, catering equipment for hospitality classes and a kiln for ceramics in art classes. The vocational workshops are well-equipped and provided a realistic working environment. There are work parties in the prison laundry but currently no certification is available there.

7.23 The gym hall at Perth has excellent facilities and is used effectively to promote and facilitate a healthier lifestyle for prisoners. A comprehensive programme of induction is in place for prisoners wishing to utilise the gymnasium. The library is very well resourced and utilised well by the prison population. The librarian and a Reader in Residence keep the stock in the library and in the satellite accommodation hall libraries up to date and this meets prisoner needs well.

Quality Assurance

7.24 Staff use self-evaluation procedures to propose changes to improve their provision. The Education Unit staff utilise quality assurance and improvement strategies developed by Carnegie College. Previously the unit had established Learner Forums in which tutors had utilised prisoner evaluations of programmes, but prisoners had currently no formal input to discussions on improvement.

7.25 In the vocational workshops, discussions between staff and internal verification procedures are the main mechanisms for improvement. Whilst on their programmes staff keep accurate records of prisoners progress on their individual programmes.

Friarton Hall

7.26 During the working week most young offenders at Friarton are employed in the wood production workshops. The machine shops are very well equipped with industry standard machines however on more than one occasion the inspectors observed that very few YOs were employed in the industrial complex, maybe nine in each of the two areas. However, every young offender has a work placement allocated with further opportunities for education and PE. Visits are also taken during the day which affects the numbers in the industrial complex.

7.27 Staff reported that they have a healthy order book and predicted adequate work well into 2010.

7.28 Prisoners produce a range of wood based furniture including tables, chairs and storage containers, these are all manufactured as part of an external contract. Prisoners can choose to attend up to three educational sessions per week where they can improve their literacy, numeracy or IT skills. These sessions are valued by prisoners. There is a Job Club programme to support and prepare prisoners prior to their liberation.

7.29 The library at Friarton contains a limited stock of reading material. Most of the texts are not readily accessible by those with limited literacy skills. The very good service provided by the Perth and Kinross library services at the main prison is currently not available to prisoners at Friarton. The library facility should be improved.

7.30 The gym facilities at Friarton are dated and require upgrading. Some of the equipment requires repairing or replacing. The all-weather football pitch has been out of commission since early summer. These should be addressed.

7.31 A number of young offenders are involved in the Duke of Edinburgh's award scheme and have taken part in a range of projects in the local community. For example, YOs were involved in repairing the drains at a bothy on a local highland estate. Some YOs benefit from supervised work placements where they leave the hall each day and work for a local employer. At the time of the inspection these placements had significantly declined but several more prisoners are due to take up new placements in the New Year. The lack of upgrading at Friarton has had a detrimental impact on the young offenders' experiences.


7.32 There is good provision of learning, skills and employability training for prisoners. Programmes are delivered in purpose built accommodation which meets the needs of prisoners well. There are effective induction procedures. However improvements are required in the arrangements to identify prisoner's literacy, numeracy and other additional support needs. While many prisoners attain a unit of a qualification, few obtain qualifications which will enhance their employability upon their liberation. There are good relations between prisoners and staff and effective support is provided during educational classes and in workshop activities. There is an efficient and effective library service which is valued by prisoners. There are effective arrangements for exercise and gym related activities. Prisoners are well prepared for release through support provided by external agencies. However there are ineffective arrangements to monitor their progress upon their release. In general, too few prisoners benefit from community work-placements.

7.33 There is an appropriate range of educational programmes. However, improvements are required in the provision of the library service, the outdoor football pitch and in the gym facilities at Friarton. There are good arrangements to involve young offenders in a range of local community-based activities.