Weston College opens Young Offenders Secure College
WESTON College, in partnership with Portland Prison, has opened a new Young Offenders Secure College.
The College is bringing its brand of education into prisons across the South West after successfully winning the Government's Offender Learning contract for the region in January.
The ground-breaking secure College was officially opened by Dr. Paul Phillips, OBE, Weston College’s Principal and Chief Executive.
He said: “This new secure college is an ambitious project in partnership with the prison and Skills Funding Agency for Teaching and Learning.
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“Our focus is courses and qualifications that lead to jobs with a wide range of education and training.
“Literacy and numeracy are a key focus in all courses to support and develop offenders and help them seek employment, further training or education upon release."
Portland prison is a male prison with a capacity of over 500, the majority of whom are young offenders.
The range of courses include maths, English, carpentry, sports and active leisure, creative arts, art and aesign and home cooking.
Portland prison governor, Russ Trent, said: “This outstanding facility will help us achieve our ambition to deliver job-focused training in a safe but educational environment.”
The College was chosen in January to deliver education packages to thousands of prisoners in 13 institutions, employing around 300 staff, under the Offenders' Learning and Skills Service Phase 4 (OLASS 4) provision.
The focus of the successful bid, worth £10 million annually, was based around 'transformational learning' and raising aspirations – ensuring that an education package meets prisoners’ needs when they complete their sentence.
The Weston College brand will appear in all South West prison educational facilities, including the College logo 'Creating Brighter Futures', and all prisoners signing up for courses will be official Weston College students.
Dr Paul Phillips and members of Weston College’s senior management team had visited the prisons to find out how current education provision works and gauge how prisoners feel about post-release prospects.
He added: “The majority of prisoners want to engage in learning but it has to be purposeful and induction at prison level is crucial, as is the need to maintain support when prisoners are about to be released.
"This new secure College is a huge step in that right direction."
Peggy Tovey, Weston College's Deputy Principal, is responsible for the implementation of OLASS 4 in the South West on a day-to-day basis.
She said: “OLASS 4 is a challenging, rewarding contract. This secure College is part of this and our aim is to see a new generation of prisoners turn around their lives after taking up courses we offer.
"Raising the aspirations of the learners and linking with businesses will strengthen the opportunities for employment once the learners are released.”
As well as providing educational facilities under the Weston College brand, a key aim is to engage employers large and small to find work for ex-offenders and those out on licence.