Prisoners who have access to good quality education and work training of vocational value stand a much better chance of successfully reintegrating into society on their release. That was the clear message at the launch of a new report which, for the first time, reviews the provision of education and work training in Ireland’s prisons.
The product of a collaboration between the Inspectorate of Prisons and the Inspectorate of the Department of Education, the Report on a Thematic Inspection on Education and Work Training has been published with the agreement of the Minister for Justice.
Speaking at the launch of the Report, Chief Inspector of Prisons Mr Mark Kelly said:
“This report sheds light on some very positive examples of collaborative work training initiatives across the three prisons inspected. However, it also identifies key issues that remain to be addressed including: limited and inconsistent access to education and work training for prisoners, restricted certification available to prisoners engaged in work and training, and a need for the Irish Prison Service to systemically embed good work training initiatives across prisons.”
Inspectors from the Department of Education joined the Inspectorate of Prisons to examine the quality of teaching and learning, as well as leadership and management in prison schools. Commenting on the report’s findings, Chief Inspector of the Department of Education Inspectorate, Ms Yvonne Keating said:
“Our inspectors highlighted many positive aspects of provision: the importance of the schools as places of learning and of belonging; the very high quality of teaching and learning in the schools; teachers were described as skilful, creative, flexible, and innovative, the enthusiasm for learning and the very high level of engagement with lesson activities shown by students in all the learning settings and the importance of schools in supporting the transition to life outside prison.”
However, Ms Keating also identified some areas for improvement:
“There were the challenges of competing operational pressures and conflicting priorities that impacted education provision. At times, access to the education service was limited, particularly for people who were on protection regimes. All of the possible available school accommodation options were not optimised for education, and this was highlighted too. We need to do better on this.”
Representing the Irish Prison Service (IPS) at the report launch, IPS Director of Care and Rehabilitation, Mr Fergal Black said:
“The IPS deeply values the positive impact that this thematic report will have in contributing to the future development of person in custody services. It will help the Irish Prison Service and our staff to improve our existing operations and standards and identifies additional areas that may need to be strengthened.”
The two Inspectorates that produced this report continue to cooperate closely, with Department of Education Inspectors now routinely joining the Inspectorate of Prisons during its full unannounced inspections of prisons.
A photo gallery of the report launch is available to view here.
Notes to the Editor
- The report was submitted by the Office of the Inspector of Prisons to the Minister for Justice on 23 December 2023.
- The full thematic inspection report on education and training and other accompanying materials including a NALA approved Inspection Summary Booklet and an Inspection Summary Infographic, as well as the Irish Prison Service’s Recommendation Action Plan are available to access here.
- Thematic inspections are carried under the Office of the Inspector of Prisons Framework, A Framework for the Inspection of Prisons in Ireland.
- The Department of Education Inspectorate is the division of the Department of Education responsible for the evaluation of primary and post-primary schools and centres for education.