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Prison educators

Prison education staff

5 October 2006

Prison education is the unsung part of post-school education. It plays a crucial role in work with offenders and the prevention of re-offending. Its lecturers work often work in the most difficult of situations, often with less support or respect.

Prison educators

Annual meeting

UCU holds an annual meeting is for prison education reps. The meeting hears reports on the work UCU does in relation to prison education staff and provides an opportunity to debate the challenges facing prison education staff. Click here for more about the annual meeting.

Over recent years prison education has been through privatisation and contracting out of services, cuts in resources and staff, lowering of pay rates and narrowing of the prison education curriculum.

UCU prison branches:

Latest prisons news & information

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If you haven't yet seen this excellent short video (it's less than 4 minutes) about one member's experience of working in prison education please watch below. Please also share widely it can get more views and raise the profile of your profession.


Covid-19 information

Stay safe on site infographic posters

Staying safe on site These new infographic posters for prison educators to share online cover the three main elements of your work:
attendance on site [476kb]
working on wings [494kb]
teaching face-to-face [459kb].

A full poster is available here [86kb] for printing and displaying in prison education departments. Please contact Ronnie Kershaw if you would like to order hard copies.

Related information

Pathway to a Prison Education Strategy

UCU's strategic ambition is for a stable and effectively resourced prison education system which supports prison educators to deliver a broad and balanced curriculum to students in prison. Ultimately, this vision will ensure the best outcomes for students, society and the economy: Pathway to a Prison Education Strategy [247kb]

Ofsted review

UCU report summarising research findings which we submitted to the Ofsted review of prison education: Find out more about our prison education report for Ofsted here.

Prisons strategy white paper 2022

UCU is concerned by the lack of detail accompanying the ambitions set out in the UK government's prisons strategy white paper, particularly in relation to the proposed Prison Education Service. Read more in UCU's response to white paper.

Guidance on how to respond to requests for educators to escort, supervise, search prisoners or sign prisoners into education

Many H&S reps/reps and members have told us that they have been asked to escort/supervise prisoners and check them into education departments. We also know that in some prisons these practices have happened for some time. Whatever the situation, UCU believes that none of these tasks are the role of prison educators, and anyone undertaking or being asked to undertake them should request a risk assessment and a safe system of work. This guidance tells you what information you need to access, and what your employers obligations are: Escorting prisoners guidance, Apr 20 [177kb]

Charter for prison education

Prison education has a life-changing impact and delivers personal, social and economic benefits both to the individuals who receive it and wider society. We would like to see the new secretaries of state for business and skill and for justice harnessing these benefits by supporting a range of improvements that will yield better outcomes for all. Read more in our charter for prison education.

Prison education potential being squandered

A 2014 report released by UCU and the Institute of Education (IoE) says the power of prison educators to help offenders turn their lives around is being 'squandered' due to constant retendering for teaching contracts.

See: Prison education potential is being squandered by constant changing of teaching contracts, warns report

Prison education: professionalism against the odds - executive summary, Feb 14 [102kb]
Prison education: professionalism against the odds, Feb 14 [651kb]

Exclusion procedure

NOMS has a procedure for dealing with the exclusion of staff not directly employed by the prison service, ie UCU members employed by a college or other provider of education and skills in prisons. Members should contact their rep or regional office immediately they are excluded so they can have support. The introduction of this procedure was a major achievement for UCU because it now mean there is a fair process that will apply to all: PSI 42/2014 - exclusion of personnel on grounds of misconduct, 28 Oct 2014 [289kb]

Consultation on Transforming Youth Custody

UCU submitted a response to the government consultation on reforming youth custody arrangements including proposals for the creation of 'Secure Colleges':  Transforming Youth Custody consultation – UCU response, May 2013 [433kb]

Prison educators suffering from high levels of stress

Education staff who work in prisons have considerably higher levels of work-related stress than British workers in general, a new report commissioned by UCU has found:
read the press release
A Punishing Regime - a survey of occupational stress and well-being among prison educators, Mar 13 [225kb]

UCU and prison education

UCU is the only union that represents all prison education lecturers. During privatisation UCU predecessor union NATFHE took the issues of prison education lecturers to the European Court of Justice and won. After lobbying by UCU during the summer of 2006, prison educators also won guarantees that the cost and value of their pension will remain effectively unchanged despite a change of employer.

UCU in in regular contact with the Home Office, OLSU, LSC and the colleges and other providers who employ lecturing staff. UCU also works very closely with other trade unions in the criminal justice sector and with other organisations concerned with the welfare of prisoners such as the Prison Reform Trust, The Howard league for penal Reform, and the Prisoner Education Trust.

There are UCU prison education branches, but most members are members of the UCU branch of whichever college is their employer. UCU branch officers can offer information and advice.

Last updated: 21 June 2024