The watchdog published a report after a team visited the prison and youth offenders’ institute in July to check on the education provided in light of the coronavirus pandemic.
The inspectors found that leaders had prioritised face-to-face sessions for prisoners who needed to progress to the next stage of their learning or who had additional learning needs.
But their report said: “The numbers of prisoners in face-to-face activities are currently too low, partly due to the prison’s stringent risk assessment process. Leaders recognise the constraints they face and have put forward plans to widen participation, such as mixing ‘bubble’ groups in functional skills lessons. However, leaders have yet to implement these initiatives.”
The inspectors found the centre’s leaders were making “reasonable progress” towards ensuring staff taught a full curriculum and provided support to meet prisoners’ needs, including the provision of remote learning.
Their report said: “At the start of the national restrictions in March 2020, leaders ceased all face-to-face learning and training in accordance with the requirements of HMPPS.
“Education staff were not allowed in the prison. Initially, leaders provided distraction packs for prisoners to complete in their cells.
“From September 2020, when the education provider returned to the prison, education and prison leaders worked collaboratively to ensure that prisoners received high-quality in-cell learning packs that mirrored their pre-Covid-19 curriculum.”
The learning packs became “progressively more challenging” so prisoners could improve their knowledge.
But inspectors found the inmates were “frustrated” that ICT was not included in the curriculum, due to social distancing rules, so they could not develop their skills.
Ofsted found leaders had a “thorough understanding” of the new curriculum, monitored in-cell learning “effectively” and helped those people who struggled to catch up.
However, they reported that too few prisoners were able to sit external exams and some workshops did not offer qualifications.
External agencies were used “effectively” to enhance the curriculum, with a literary writing company publishing a book of prisoners’ stories, which was sent to their relatives.
The inspectors found prisoners had detailed plans to reflect their additional learning needs, which were identified at induction and updated by staff.
Leaders had a “clear recovery plan” to provide the full curriculum, including working with employers to support prisoners into a job on their release. The inspectors recommended that HMP Hindley increased the number of prisoners attending face-to-face education sessions; ensured prisoners had access to ICT resources; allowed inmates to sit relevant external examinations; and ensured they could access information on education and training opportunities, as well as adequate support for their additional learning needs.
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