Fighting fund banner



UCU's campaign for prison education

8 May 2024

Prison educators turn around the lives of their learners inside prison and cut reoffending rates outside. Yet the Ministry of Justice (MoJ), through the operation of the prison ed contract, has overseen the de-professionalisation of education into a commodity.

UCU members experience low salaries, layers of contract compliance, poor CPD opportunities and unsustainable rates of attrition. The result is a loss of expertise, a narrow cost driven curriculum, increased over-working and rising levels of attacks on staff.

The MoJ does not recognise or consult with UCU on the prison education curriculum or delivery of education provision in prison education settings. The voice of the profession is ignored, unlike in schools or further education.

The funding model is broken. The commissioning framework has diverted resources away from the development, design, and delivery of truly meaningful education.

The current PEF contract and the new PES contract from April next year, fail learners and staff alike. For the MoJ prison education is about managing the contract and controlling costs rather than letting educators deliver meaningful education and reducing reoffending.

HM Treasury is still refusing to confirm the application of Fair New Deal for prison educators' pensions. Most prisons educators work for an FE college. FE has been reclassified as part of the public sector and our members should be protected like other public sector workers. We want prison ed staff to get the same public sector pension protection to apply to prison education staff.

Pay compares poorly with secondary schools and FE colleges despite similar qualifications needed to teach inside. TUPE transfers are common. Staff typically leave within three years.

Prisons are not safe. Recent incidents linked to the lack of prison officers indicate the growing risks to prison educators of harmful substances use in prisons, where vaping laced with spice, ketamine and even Fentanyl is not uncommon.

UCU is calling for:

  • a comprehensive review of the current operation of Prison Education Framework (PEF) and the prison education curriculum before the Prison Education Service (PES) contract is rolled out
  • UCU to be consulted by the MoJ on this and other prison education matters
  • the prison education service that is overseen by the DfE as a national prison education service and on a not-for-profit basis
  • a comprehensive review of the recommendations from the Coates review in order to inform these current proposals
  • the implementation of the Joint Unions in Prison Alliance recommendations and safer prisons
  • a national contract for prison education staff and professional respect and parity of esteem with FE
  • HM Treasury to confirm the application of Fair New Deal as a matter of urgency.
Last updated: 8 May 2024