The transfer of responsibility for prison education to the Department for Education and Skills (DfES) created an important opportunity for this Committee to inquire into the provision of education and training in prisons, and to scrutinise provision against mainstream standards. We have aimed to shine a light on a subject that has been a low priority for both Government and the general public.

Current provision of prison education is unacceptable. Whilst the Government has provided a substantial increase in resources it is failing to fully meet its manifesto commitment to ‘dramatically increase the quality and quantity of education provision’. In 2004, still less than a third of prisoners had access to prison education at any one time. There needs to be a fundamental shift in approach to prison education and a step change in the level of high quality provision that is suited to meet the needs of individual prisoners to provide them with a real alternative to crime on release.