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High-tech prison training scheme launched

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Home Secretary, David Blunkett has announced that Her Majesty’s Prison, Leeds, is to be one of six prisons to pilot an innovative, computer based education project.

The aim of the project is to drive up standards of prison education, prepare prisoners for work on the outside and break the cycle of reoffending.

The Government’s aim is to ensure that those who leave prison turn their backs on a life of crime. Current figures show that 58% of offenders are reconvicted within two years of release from prison.

Literacy and numeracy are key problems for many prisoners. Many offenders lack key skills, the absence of which prevents them finding work. At present two thirds of prisoners do not have the basic literacy skills of an 11-year old or younger.

learndirect will cater for those essential basics of literacy and numeracy as part of a wide range of vocational and academic courses.

The draw of modern technology, in the form of learndirect, will give prisoners the opportunity to achieve a qualification and improve their employability through secure on-line learning.

Leeds has been chosen as one of the pilot prisons because of its imaginative approach to education and successful integration of basic skills. 97% of new inmates were screened for basic skills needs in May this year, demonstrating the commitment that the prison has to assessing the individual needs of prisoners and designing appropriate learning programmes.

Home Secretary David Blunkett said:

“Improving the delivery of basic skills is at the heart of the Government’s commitment to improve dramatically the quality and quantity of prison education. The Service is already seeing positive results with prisoners gaining over 50,000 certificates last year. But there is much further to go yet.”

“The new partnership arrangements between Department for Education and Skills and the Prison Service to support projects like learndirect will help to ensure we achieve our aims.”

The Prison Service aims to get prisoners to the literacy and numeracy levels expected of 14 – 16 year olds, as they could otherwise be excluded from over 90% of jobs. Last year 9,500 qualifications were achieved at this at this level, and more than 21,000 in level 2 core curriculum subjects – an increase of over 50%.

The other pilot prisons are Feltham, Hindley, The Mount, Styal and Wellingborough.

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