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Literacy skills and Vocational Qualifications skyrocket after NSW education reforms

  • In 2016 The New South Wales Government as part of the Better Prisons reform, decided to outsource prison teaching jobs to  specialist training provider BSI learning and TAFE,  reducing the number of teachers from 158 to 87.
  • The objective was to lift standards, strengthening accountability, and help meet a commitment to reduce adult reoffending by five per cent by 2019.

    The result:- 

    The changes included Correctives Services focussing on basic reading and writing and vocational skills, in the hope of boosting employability beyond convict life and reducing recividism. 

    The rate of inmates completing numeracy and literacy courses has soared by 77 per cent.

    The number of inmates to complete literacy and numeracy qualifications increased from 322 per year to 459 between 2015-2016 and 2017-2018, while those in vocational training programs has increased from 2,978 to 5,269 in the same period.

    Sharon’s Story 

    Nick Hansen of The Daily Telegraph – in an article of December 26, 2018 shares a great story about Sharon, a 52-year-old inmate who was terrified and unable to read her own name when she arrived on a lengthy sentence at Dillwynia Correctional Centre, near Windsor.

    “I was scared when I came in, I didn’t talk to the officers, I didn’t talk to no one. I didn’t know how to read or write, now I can,” Sharon told The Daily Telegraph.

    “When I get out, I really want to go and work with my sister.”

    Sharon is “employed” at $24.60 per week in a team of inmates who fix and repackage used Qantas headsets as part of the prison system’s vast internal workforce. 

    A requirement of this job is the ability to read English .

    It is coveted paid positions like Sharon’s which entice prisoners to achieve a basic education.

    Cath’s observation

    Dillwynia’s principal industries officer Cath Avery said learning and employment was critical to filling in the hours between 7am and 3pm – focussing the inmates mind on positive activities. 

    Our learning programme has 3 main benefits :- 

    1. The programme improves their skills so they’re employable when they get out. 
    2. It allows them to earn a little bit of income 
    3. It reduces the boredom

    Minister David Elliott – it’s about reducing recidivist offending 

    Minister for Corrections David Elliott said the fact the prison system was below capacity for the first time in years was proof the changes were addressing recidivist offending.

    “People should leave prison feeling punished so they don’t go back, drug free so they don’t risk a life of crime and be literate so they can get a job,” Mr Elliott said.

    Posted on March 11, 2019

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