There is a strong link between offending behaviour and issues such as poor literacy, language and numeracy skills, and a history of unemployment. Many people in custody will have had a very poor experience of education, including limited, if any, formal qualifications or skills and no experience of stable employment.
The Northern Ireland Prison Service (NIPS) outsourced its Learning and Skills (L&S) to Belfast Metropolitan College at Hydebank Wood and Maghaberry, and North West Regional College at Magilligan, in May 2017, with the aim of:
“Ensuring that individuals are supported to improve their learning and skills while in prison custody, thereby increasing employability, supporting effective resettlement and reducing the risk of future offending.”
Each Establishment has a dedicated Learning & Skills Centre which is resourced to provide a range of programmes. These services are managed locally in partnership between a NIPS Activities Governor and a College Head of Learning in each Establishment.
Students in our care have the opportunity to attain recognised skills and qualifications in a range of both educational and vocational subjects. The curriculum is tailored to the population needs of each establishment and an Individual Learning Plan, focused on progression, is developed for each student based on his or her individual needs.
The curriculum currently offers a mandatory core of Essential Skills (Numeracy, Literacy and ICT) and a range of subjects from Entry Level 1 to Level 2 with some subjects being offered at Level 3. Opportunities to attain AQA Unit Awards and engage in activities such as art and music are also offered as a means of reaching out to disengaged learners, short-stay students and those on Remand.
NIPS is also committed to supporting students who wish to avail of learning opportunities provided through its Distance Learning policy.