Weston College awarded £10 million prisons education contract

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By YouPR | Monday, January 21, 2013, 15:54

Weston College is bringing its unique brand of education into prisons across the South West after successfully bidding for the Government's Offender Learning contract for the region.

The College will now deliver education packages to thousands of prisoners in 13 institutions, employing around 300 staff, under the Offenders' Learning and Skills Service Phase 4 (OLASS 4) provision.

The focus of the successful bid, worth £10 million per year, was based around 'transformational learning' and raising aspirations – ensuring that an education package is provided that meets the needs of prisoners when they complete their sentence.

The Weston College brand will now appear in all South West prison educational facilities, including the College logo 'Creating Brighter Futures', and all prisoners signing up for courses will be official Weston College students.

For the past four months Weston College Principal Dr Paul Phillips, with members of the senior management team, has visited a different prison every week to find out how current education provision works, and to gauge how prisoners themselves feel about their prospects post-release.

He said: "The majority of prisoners want to engage in learning but it has to be purposeful in their eyes and therefore induction at a prison level is crucial, as is the need to maintain support when prisoners are about to be released.

"One prisoner made it very clear to me that within the prison walls he had purpose and security but once released he feared for how he would cope. In general prisoners are well informed and were quite happy to debate the value of courses and schemes of study."

Peggy Tovey, Weston College's Deputy Principal, is responsible for the implementation of OLASS 4 in the South West on a day-to-day basis.

She said: "OLASS 4 is a very challenging contract but it is also very rewarding, and our aim is to see a new generation of prisoners turn around their lives after taking up the courses we will be offering." This means working closely with Prisons Governors, staff, partners and employers to ensure all parties are working towards the same goal.

As well as providing educational facilities under the Weston College brand, a key aim is to engage employers large and small to find work for ex-offenders and those out on licence.

David Burton, Weston College's Senior Sales and Business Development Manager, said he had been talking to high street shoe repairers and key cutters Timpson – well-known for giving ex-offenders the chance of employment. He recently organised a working conference between the company and representatives of South West prisons, which was well received by Heads of Learning and Skills within prisons.

Peggy Tovey explained: "Social Enterprises are key to driving forward success, enabling offenders to participate and experience real work. Eastwood Park women's prison in Gloucestershire are planning an innovative enterprise making luxury soap in partnership with the Shaw Trust and Weston College – just one example of the future of education in prisons."

Dave Burton added: "Increasing employer engagement with the prisons is a key part of this contract and already we're seeing very positive moves in this direction. I hope to create links with other well-known high street retailers and charitable and voluntary sector organisations prepared to give offenders a start."



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