Written answers

Thursday, 30 September 2010

Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform

Prison Education Service

10:30 am

Photo of Alan ShatterAlan Shatter (Dublin South, Fine Gael)
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Question 231: To ask the Minister for Justice and Law Reform the number of persons providing education and training programmes in each of our prisons; the qualification of such persons; the number of prisoners who have participated in such programmes in each of the years 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008 and 2009; and the subject matter of such programmes. [34216/10]

Photo of Alan ShatterAlan Shatter (Dublin South, Fine Gael)
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Question 232: To ask the Minister for Justice and Law Reform in respect of each of the prisons here the current education programmes for prisoners; the subject matter of such programmes and the number of prisoners participating in such programmes. [34217/10]

Photo of Dermot AhernDermot Ahern (Minister, Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform; Louth, Fianna Fail)
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I propose to take Questions Nos. 231 and 232 together.

The number of authorised posts in education and training areas for each of the prisons is set out in the table below.

InstitutionEducation (Wholetime Equivalents)Work and Training
Arbour Hill10.0514
Castlerea16.2320
Cloverhill8.0013
Cork19.1015
Dóchas7.007
Loughan House9.529
Limerick16.0517
Midlands34.2029
Mountjoy17.2350
Shelton Abbey7.418
Portlaoise19.6410
St Patrick's Institution20.0519
Training Unit7.5010
Wheatfield20.1037

All teachers are employed by the relevant Vocational Education Committee and funded by the Department of Education and Skills. The qualifications of the teachers are a matter for those bodies. Prison staff providing accredited training possess qualifications or competencies in the relevant skill set and also complete a FETAC accredited Train the Trainer Programme.

The Irish Prison Service places a strong emphasis on access to educational services and on the provision of work and training activities for prisoners. Educational services are available at all institutions and are provided in partnership with a range of educational agencies in the community, notably the VECs. Literacy, numeracy and general basic education provision is a priority and broad programmes of education are made available which generally follow an adult education approach.

Education programmes are adapted to take account of the diversity of the prisoner population and the complex nature of prison life, including segregation requirements and high levels of prisoner turnover. Educational courses and curricula, which are based on individuals participating in one or more subject areas for an academic year and sitting terminal examinations, are only appropriate for a small number of prisoners. Junior and Leaving Certificate courses are available but increasing numbers of prisoners require a more flexible curriculum which has multiple entry and exit points that take account of prior educational attainment. FETAC accreditation is therefore widely used with assessment by portfolio compilation. All prison Education Units meet the quality assurance standards demanded by FETAC. Considerable attention is paid to coordinating courses with the Work and Training programme described below.

The education programmes provided can be broadly categorised as follows:

Basic Education, including literacy, numeracy, English as a second language and communications;

Creative Arts, notably music, sound recording and production, drama, art, craft, stone work, creative writing, film production and photography;

Technology, including woodwork, woodcarving, metalwork, computer-aided design, information technology and horticulture;

General Subjects, incorporating history, languages, geography, home economics and English literature;

General Subjects, incorporating history, languages, geography, home economics and English literature;

Life Skills, comprising notably personal development, interpersonal skills, anger management, parenting, child care, addiction studies, driver theory and food hygiene; and

Healthy Living, notably physical education, sports, fitness and recreational activities, health education, diet and nutrition.

Participation in education generally varies with factors such as access, facilities, turnover of population and segregation. During 2009, approximately 39% of the prisoner population were engaged in education based on actual attendance at classes over the academic year. In previous years the measure of participation was based on enrolment as distinct from actual attendance in a sample period. The percentage enrolment was 51% in 2005, 47% in 2006, 50% in 2007 and 48% in 2008.

Training activities are chosen to give as much employment as possible in prison and to give opportunities to acquire skills which will help prisoners secure employment on their release. A wide range of training workshops operate within the institutions, e.g. printing, computers, braille, woodwork, metalwork, construction, industrial contract cleaning, craft, horticulture and electronics. In addition, formal training is also provided in prison services such as catering and laundry.

During 2009, the average number of prisoners participating in work and training activities was over 800 or over 21% of the average daily prison population. External accreditation of certified training is available for a number of courses run within the institutions. 376 prisoners participated in accredited vocational training courses in 2009 which was slightly down on the 381 figure for 2008.

The IPS is developing enhanced partnership arrangements with both City and Guilds and the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) which will allow for centralised and co-ordinated management of the accreditation process and an expansion in the number of courses and activities with certification. The skills areas, where additional certified courses will be delivered in the coming years, include painting and decorating, storage and warehousing, fork-lift driving, catering, metal/welding, construction, horticulture, electronics and laundry operations.

I hope this gives the Deputy and the House an overview of the range of educational and training opportunities available to the prison population to assist offenders who are willing to engage in a purposeful manner with the available opportunities to improve and augment their skills.

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