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Whitemoor Prison fails to educate inmates for release, says Ofsted

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It successfully houses some of Britain’s most notorious – and long serving criminals – but Whitemoor prison is failing in preparing inmates for life on the outside.

The March prison has a capacity to take nearly 500 prisoners at any one time and is failing, says a new report, into educating its inmates.

Ofsted says it has been back to the top security jail to check progress on an earlier visit to ensure it has an “appropriate vocational curriculum” to meet the needs of prisoners.

What Ofsted found is what they describe as “insufficient progress”.

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The Ofsted team, headed by lead inspector Allan Shaw, visited over three days in late September.

“Leaders and managers have not ensured that prisoners are able to attend lessons and work roles frequently in order to learn,” he concluded.

Lucy Frazer, MP, was Minister of State (Ministry of Justice)
when she visited Whitemoor in 2020

“Since the return to normal timetable arrangements earlier this year, chronic staff shortages have led to very frequent and extensive closures of workshop and classes.

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“As a result, prisoners only attend lessons and workshops for around a quarter of the allotted time and therefore do not develop good knowledge and skills.”

The report says: “Men have too few opportunities to develop the skills they need to meet their career aspirations.”

He quotes examples of whether the prison has failed:

1: Courses in construction have been withdrawn.

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2: Music technology and art studies were without staff to teach them at the time of the visit.

Mr Shaw says a few new courses have been introduced, such as business enterprise but the prison has “not ensured that prisoners are sufficiently prepared to gain employment on eventual release.

“Too few skills that prisoners learn in prison-led workshops and industries are accredited”.

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On a positive note, he says “suitable arrangements for prisoners’ prayers and attendance at the gymnasium have been put into place”.

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But the report poses the questions:  What actions have leaders and managers taken to ensure that they monitor the quality of education?

And in what way do tutors help prisoners to make good progress, ensuring that the provision delivered by the college and other subcontractors is evaluated accurately?

Again, Mr Shaw concludes there is “insufficient progress”, and he says the prison has failed to ensure prisoners made good progress.

Managers have failed to provide frequent lessons, workshops, or work activities.

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“The frequent closures mean that prisoners often forget what they have learned which slows their progress on their return to class or work areas,” he says.

Mr Shaw says the subcontracted Information, Advice and Guidance (IAG) provision, has been without staff for many months.

He added: “The closure of education and industrial workshops for most of the time available has greatly restricted the progress that prisoners can make.

“In prison-led workshops, leaders and managers do not have a clear picture of the progress most prisoners make in developing their employability or vocational skills.

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“Most instructors do not use the prison’s progress review procedures frequently or consistently to monitor prisoners’ progress or to help prisoners to improve.

“Consequently, for most prisoners, any progress they make is not acknowledged and instructors do not take action to intervene where there are concerns.

Too few prisoners have current progress targets in order to give them clear guidance for improvement.

“Prisoners’ skills development leading to roles of higher responsibility is not adequately recorded or celebrated.”

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Ofsted says it undertook a monitoring visit in its own right, without accompanying His Majesty’s Inspectorate of Prisons (HMIP).

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