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Taking action in higher education

UCU welcomes move to stop face-to-face prison education during coronavirus crisis

24 March 2020 | last updated: 27 March 2020

UCU has welcomed the move to suspend prison education as part of a wider prison lockdown in response to the coronavirus outbreak.

Her Majesty's Prison and Probation Service (HMPPS) advised the Justice Select Committee this afternoon that it was moving to an exceptional delivery model, and has now confirmed to prison governors and prison education providers that all non-essential activities involving groups of people, including prison education, should be stopped with immediate effect.

The union had called for face-to-face provision to be stopped after members raised concerns about health and safety. A survey of prison education staff highlighted widespread concerns about a lack of basic handwashing facilities, classrooms not being cleaned between lessons and equipment being shared between prisoners and staff.

UCU said it would now work with HMPPS and prison education employers to look at other ways to support prisoners' learning during the crisis. The union also called on employers to provide guarantees to prison education staff that they would continue to be paid.

UCU general secretary, Jo Grady, said: 'We are pleased that the government has listened to the concerns being raised and moved to stop all face-to-face education activity within prisons. The health and safety of staff and prisoners is paramount and it is right that we take every possible step to help stop the spread of this virus within the prison estate.

'UCU will work with HMPPS to look at other ways in which members can support prisoners to continue learning during this period. In the meantime we are calling on prison education providers to give urgent reassurances to their staff that they will not lose out financially as a result of this decision.'

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