By Daniel Hunter

Prisoners will receive a boost to their chances of finding employment after their release, with intensive ‘military style’ maths and English classes, Business Secretary Vince Cable announced today (Thursday).

The pilot will be carried out in six prisons in the North West, and will be based on the successful approach used for training new recruits in the Royal Navy, Army and Royal Air Force.

An example of an Army intensive programme consists of 35 hours of lessons in a one week block but with additional training for those who need it. The teaching makes literacy and numeracy relevant to the recruits’ day-to-day work and has been shown to boost their confidence and career progression, including those who had poor experiences of learning at school.

Skills Minister John Hayes, following an examination of the Armed Forces scheme, ordered that it be adapted to the prison environment - for example, by making lessons a compulsory part of popular courses like construction, and painting and decorating.

John Hayes said:

"This pilot is about ensuring prisoners are more likely to work than commit crime when they leave."

The programme will show offenders how important basic skills are when trying to get a job and stay in work. It will be taught at the start of their sentences so their studies are less likely to be disrupted.

Business Secretary Vince Cable said:

“Crime blights lives, both for the offender and the victim. That is why we are piloting this programme in prisons, so we can give prisoners the basic skills they need to get their lives on track and bring down re-offending rates.

“This shorter but more intensive approach means that it is less likely that their studies will be disrupted and by linking lessons to other vocational courses, prisoners are more likely to attain the skills that are needed to get a job and progress in life.”

Skills Minister John Hayes said:

“Breaking the damaging cycle of re-offending and re-imprisonment will not only turn around the lives of countless prisoners, it will also prevent the suffering of their potential victims and reduce the burden on the taxpayer.

“We are determined to make prisons places where people learn skills to build lives beyond crime. That is why we are piloting the successful Armed Forces’ maths and English programme so offenders can attain the core skills needed to secure a job after their release and go on to lead honest and productive lives.”

Justice Minister Crispin Blunt, said:

"The basics of English and mathematics underpin almost all other learning and skills. Assessing prisoners' learning needs, so they can better address the causes of their offending behaviour is at the heart of the reforms set out in the new offender learning strategy published jointly with BIS last year. The trials of the Army's approach to delivering these skills could particularly assist those with short sentences to emerge from custody better equipped to be positive citizens rather than return to offending.

“If we can improve prisoners' literacy and numeracy levels it will improve their chances of getting a job following release. Keeping employment is a key factor in helping to reduce re-offending.”

The pilot is part of the Government’s drive to cut reoffending, which costs the public purse between £9.5 billion and £13 billion a year (Source: NAO report). Research has shown that the vast majority (97 per cent) of offenders say they want to stop offending, and that the biggest factor in helping them to do so (68 per cent) is having a job.

Prisons taking part in the pilot include Manchester, Garth, Kirkham, Lancaster Farms, Styal and Altcourse.

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