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The results from NIACE’s survey yesterday on levels of education among adult learners in the UK are far from surprising.  According to the survey of around 5,000 people, those in the highest socio-economic groups are twice as likely to study as those in the poorest groups.  The level of learning among the lowest socio-economic groups falling to a ten year low with only 24% of the group either studying now or in the last three years.  Compare that to the figure of those in the higher socio-economic group studying now or in the last three years – at 53%... more than double! Something is seriously amiss.

This, of course, it not new news for many of us.  And of course, neither is the link between educational attainment (poverty, employment, social capital etc...) and the likelihood of having some sort of contact with the criminal justice system.

Lifelong learning has to be learned. Something has to hook you. A huge proportion of those in prison have never been hooked and low levels of education abilities are unsurprisingly reported.  Prisons are perhaps the place where many are exposed to new ways of learning, where it is embedded at a variety of levels (e.g. HMYOI Aylesbury have incorporated learning into the laundry workshop), and is delivered in a range of formal and informal way. Yes, this is patchy and is dependent on key individuals or smaller organisations getting a foot through the door.  But the potential for hooking this group, this captive audience (couldn’t resist!) is enormous and is being exploited well.  It just needs to happen more.  And without the government meddling with their Public Acceptability Test’s which only act to reverse the great work already happening.

The Prison Service is one of the largest providers of education to adults in the UK and as such, perhaps provides a starting point to start addressing some of the disturbing imbalances highlighted in the NIACE report??


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