Prison education staff

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.

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.


Government publishes reforms plans

18 May 2016

UCU welcomed the government's renewed focus on the importance of education in prisons, but warned that more investment is required to achieve meaningful reform.

UCU was responding to 'Unlocking Potential: a review of education in prison' published on 18 May 2016 by the Ministry of Justice, and plans for prison reform set out in the Queen's Speech which will give prison governors greater control over prison education services.

More investment in prison education needed for meaningful reform
Unlocking potential: review of prison education

Review of prison education

The government's review of prison education is examining how it supports rehabilitation of different types of prison learners. UCU made a submission to the review based on feedback from members:
Review of education in prisons survey, Nov 15 [357kb]

Name change for A4e

Formerly UCU's A4e prison education branch, it changed to UCU's PeoplePlus prison education branch in July 2015, following the sale of A4e to Staffline Group plc. A4e was merged with another Staffline Group acquisition, Avanta, to form a new company called PeoplePlus.

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.

Michael Gove prisons' speech

UCU has welcomed a renewed focus from government on the importance of education in prisons, but said that it cannot be delivered on the cheap: UCU response to Michael Gove's prisons speech

Prison education potential being squandered

February 2014: a 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] (opens in a new window)
Prison education: professionalism against the odds, Feb 14 [651kb] (opens in a new window)

Prison educators recruitment materials

The new poster is suitable for all prison education staff. There are also new recruitment leaflets for the Manchester College and Milton Keynes branches.
Prison educators recruitment poster [155kb] (opens in a new window)
TMC prison educators recruitment flyer [35kb] (opens in a new window)
MK prison educators recruitment flyer [34kb] (opens in a new window)

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] (opens in a new window)

Consultation on Transforming Youth Custody

May 2013: UCU has 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] (opens in a new window)

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] (opens in a new window)

UCU and prison education

UCU is the only union that represents all prison education lecturers. During privatisation UCU (as NATFHE) took the issues of prison education lecturers to the European Court of Justice and won. After lobbying by UCU during summer 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: 20 May 2016