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Home » News » Skills for Life Provision for Offenders in the Community

Skills for Life Provision for Offenders in the Community

Inspection & Quality
Prison and Probation , Key Documents
Skills for Life Network

The Adult Learning Inspectorate (ALI) has published its report on Skills for Life provision for offenders in the community in England and Wales

‘In any one year the National Probation Service (NPS) will supervise up to 200,000 offenders and the majority will take part in some sort of adult learning during their supervision in the community. These programmes are intended to improve the offenders’ employment prospects and reduce the rates of re-offending.

In November 2003, the Home Office commissioned the ALI to review the NPS arrangements for the teaching of basic skills in England and Wales. The inspectors were asked to identify good practice and to highlight areas that would benefit from change.

The report finds that the probation service has many good local managers but that few of them have the specialist knowledge to make the basic skills initiative work well. Much of the learning provision was found to be inflexible or inappropriate and involved too narrow a range of teaching methods to hold the attention of people who have often been discouraged from learning by repeated failure. The work of probation staff is hampered by an initial screening process that is inappropriate for assessing the complex learning and support needs of offenders.

The report also identifies a clear lack of direction given by the National Probation Directorate to regional areas regarding the necessary development and delivery of basic skills. This is something that should be rectified by the recently-created National Offender Management Service and recent partnership arrangements between the Offender Learning and Skills Unit, the National Probation Service and the LSC (Learning and Skills Council).

Rosy Adriaenssens is the ALI inspector who led the inspection. She said:

“The Home Office did not have to have this area of their work inspected – they requested it because they were committed to improving learning provided to offenders in the community – and you can’t do that until you know your starting position. While we did find some significant weaknesses we also found some examples of good practice. For example, in Cambridgeshire an effective partnership between the National Probation Service and the local Learning Skills Council has resulted in two part time trainers working on board a NACRO (National Association for the Care and Resettlement of Offenders) bus. This is a mobile learning centre which brings technology and sophisticated learning resources to geographically remote areas.”

David Sherlock, Chief Inspector of the ALI, said:

“Progress in complex areas like criminal behaviour requires many different problems being addressed at the same time – housing, employment, drug misuse and long standing educational gaps all contribute towards offending. This report suggests that necessary strategic focus has been absent but that the National Offender Management Service should be the forum for all the specialist agencies to work together. It is encouraging to see from the action plan produced by the Probation Service that this is now a priority for everyone involved. Indeed, Paul Goggins, Minister for Correctional Services and Martin Narey, Chief Executive of the National Offender Management Service, have welcomed the report and have been instrumental in ensuring that its findings are acted on. Essentially, the theory is the same for all learning providers, whether it is the probation service or a company offering engineering apprenticeships – our independent report gives the organisation the information it needs to achieve sustainable quality improvement.”

To see a copy of the report (a summary is available at the front of the document) go to

Source: Press release by Dhiren Katwa at the Adult Learning Inspectorate. For more information, telephone 024 7671 6703 or

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