A race to excellence or to the bottom? A preliminary study of the state and status of correctional education in Scottish young offenders institutions

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The provision of ‘formal’ education and vocational skills in Scottish prisons is contracted out by a tender-based system usually to Further Education (FE) colleges which have developed specific learning and skills courses for prisoners. Currently, two FE colleges, namely, Fife College and New College Lanarkshire, won the tender to provide education and skills from 2016 to 2021 (Scottish Prison Service, 2016). In 2009 Scotland introduced a nationally recognised school curriculum known as ‘Curriculum for Excellence’ (CfE) for children and young people covering ages 3to 18 years (Priestley and Humes, 2010). CfE seeks to provide a transformational learning that extends beyond school and based on key learning outcomes, including producing successful leaners. Within the new educational framework space is also provided for learners with additional support needs (Scottish Government, 2008). With input from its Learning Environment Steering Group (LESG), and aiming to meet the learning needs of incarcerated young people, SPS has undertaken steps to redefine learning in YOIs particularly Polmont so that education in that sector can somewhat be aligned with the key aims of CfE’s encapsulated in what is known as the “four capacities”, viz., (a) successful leaners, (b) confident individuals, (c) responsible citizens and (d) effective contributors (Scottish Prison Service, nd). Given that young offenders in Scottish YOIs are within the 3-18 age range for learners covered by CfE, there are questions to be asked as to what extent, the envisioned transformational and excellence in learning also exists or not in Scottish YOIs. The areas of research interest for the proposed study are, but not limited to, resources available, extent and quality of provision, young inmates’ engagement with it, how this is managed by prison staff and teachers involved in its delivery.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 22 Nov 2017
EventScottish Educational Research Association Annual Conference : Educational Futures in a Changing Landscape: Bridging Boundaries or "Mind the Gap"? - University of the West of Scotland, Ayr, United Kingdom
Duration: 22 Nov 201724 Nov 2017


ConferenceScottish Educational Research Association Annual Conference
Abbreviated titleSERA Conference 2017
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom
Internet address


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