Inspection notes

28 Mar 2017

This month Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Prisons published reports of HMPs Durham and Eastwood Park and HMP/YOI Swinfen Hall. We take a closer look at Ofsted’s section, dealing with the standard of learning and skills and sharing good practice highlighted by inspectors, including this month: embedded learning in industry workshops and gardens, an ‘Inside Out’ prison university partnership and a visit from a First World War museum to inspire creative writing. We also shine a light on things inspectors have marked down such as pay scales not incentivising learning, not providing sufficient high-level courses and a ‘culture of low aspirations’.

Prison Name  Category Ofsted Grade
Durham Local Requiring Improvement
Eastwood Park Women's local  Good
Swinfen Hall  YOI/Young Adult Category C Inadequate

Teaching was well-regarded at both HMP Durham, a local prison, and HMP Eastwood Park, which houses women. At Durham, teachers were “imaginative and creative in engaging prisoners” and “skilful in planning and delivering suitable activities for different abilities”. For example, in one lesson volunteers from a local army museum used First World War artefacts as prompts for creative writing. Prisoners felt safe in classrooms, and were able to “develop an understanding of concepts such as democracy and tolerance”. Teaching was of a particularly good standard in functional skills, including ICT, where the inspectorate observed that prisoners with little or no previous experience were able to “progress quickly from basic keyboard skills to designing power-point presentations”. At Durham, some prisoners also have the opportunity to take part in an Inside/Out module alongside students from Durham University, in which they were “challenged to reflect on their behaviour and the role of prisons in British society compared to other countries”.Classroom learning

At Eastwood Park, teachers were “well informed about women’s barriers to learning” and used the information to ensure learning assistants and mentors provided good support. The inspectorate also praised the use of volunteers from outside prison. Overall, “[w]omen appreciated the opportunity to re-engage with education and enjoyed their learning, which significantly boosted their confidence and self-esteem,” the report notes. However, the inspectorate noted that too few women progressed to higher levels of training.

Teaching at HMP/YOI Swinfen Hall was good at foundation level, with learners achieving well, receiving detailed feedback on how to improve, and developing their confidence in communicating. Bad behaviour, when it occurred, was “challenged appropriately”. However, the standard of teaching at higher levels was less good, and “tutors did not consistently reinforce good standards by correcting and guiding learners to improve,” says the report.

Training/Work

Inspectors found the range and standard of work and training opportunities to have improved at Eastwood Park since their last inspection, while at Durham places were still too limited. At Swinfen Hall vocational courses were “too basic and not particularly valued by employers” and the prison did not make the best use of facilities such as kitchens. The work that did exist is described as “repetitive”, providing limited opportunity for skills development. The inspectorate did note however that a few training workshops had begun to incorporate English and Maths skills, and that prisoners “demonstrated the benefit of this approach.”

At Durham prisoners also enjoyed working in the prison gardens, said the inspectorate. “They rapidly learned to identify a wide range of plants and gained a clear understanding of the link between food production and healthy eating.”

Library

Library access was good at Eastwood Park and very good at Durham, where the library had a “good range of stock and effective links with education” and where access was higher than at comparator prisons. This was not the case at Swinfen Hall, where only 22% of prisoners had visited the library in the past six months.

Management and regime

At Eastwood Park there were not found to be enough English and Maths places for the population, and women waited too long after induction before beginning education, and the prison pay policy did not encourage them to continue. At Durham, too many prisoners were locked up or not purposefully occupied during the core day. There were too few places available for work and education and too little attention paid to attendance, found the inspectorate.

This was a greater problem at Swinfen Hall, where inspections saw poor attendance and punctuality in work and education as “indicative of a culture of low aspirations for prisoner outcomes and the quality of provision” in general. This was exacerbated by poor communication between the management and education providers, and poor long-term planning on how to improve the standard of provision. However, the report does end the report on a more optimistic note, suggesting that the recruitment of a new governor (Teresa Clarke joined the prison on the week of the inspection) presented an opportunity for change and to “raise expectations amongst both staff and prisoners”.