Successfully using ICT to support learning in the secure estate

Back of heads - female

Identifying and documenting current examples

During 2015-16, the Education and Training Foundation (ETF) was a partner in the government-commissioned Coates Review of prison education in England and Wales, to examine how it supports effective rehabilitation of prison learners. As part of its contribution to that review, the Foundation published:

The charity continued its commitment to supporting the implementation of the recommendations of the now published Coates Review, which includes a focus on improving the digital literacy of prisoners. In this respect, the ETF  commissioned research to identify where there is promising work already underway that improves access to and use of technology within prison education provision. The ultimate aim is the improvement of the digital literacy and hence employability and rehabilitation of the prison population.

The research identified examples of successful use of ICT to support learning in prison which are presented through examples collected over the research time period. The research also highlighted barriers to successful digital literacy such as limited access to Virtual Campus, out-of-date software and limited (and sometimes, no) connectivity to the internet.

The recommendations from the report build on where digital literacy is being successfully taught and how this should be rolled out across the whole prison/secure estate. These recommendations include feedback from those involved in the research and are:

  • Find ways to increase collaboration between providers, and between all stakeholders: A great deal of work is happening in a localised and uncoordinated way. Exploration of how there could be more systematic sharing of new practice would support further development and a wider use of creative and engaging solutions.
  • Invest in broadband costs and logistics: To open up opportunities and build on the potential of programmes such as those described above there needs to be a leased high-speed broadband line in all prisons and connectivity across the prison to be able to carry the signal.
  • Invest in flexible on and off-line technology: investment in flexible infrastructure and packages can produce more effective ICT solutions to prisoner education issues.
  • Build commissioner and provider relationships: a good relationship between prisons and education providers is essential and the support of a third party (HMPPS) helps to broker the understanding between the education drivers (Ofsted) and the drive to improve quality.
  • Communicate the priority need for ICT skills: Prisoners’ needs for digital skills are still not fully appreciated. This small-scale research has identified that providers want to be able to support prisoners to acquire ICT skills because for a large number of prisoners they do not have the skills and this is an increasing barrier for them post-release.

Read the report.

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