Did you know that nearly two-thirds of offenders in custody have been identified as requiring support in basic literacy and numeracy skills?
The decision by Corrective Services NSW to outsource nearly 90 per cent of teaching and education coordinator roles to private providers, with half of the 20 remaining education staff to be placed in clerical roles that do not require any education qualifications whatsoever, comes at a time when prison population numbers are at their highest ever and an extraordinary number of offenders are in need of educational support and planning.
Shocked and angry prison education staff are vigorously campaigning to reverse the government’s decision while at the same time fighting what many perceive as an attack on professionalism: to quote the Minister for Corrections, David Elliot, on September 2 at the Budget Estimates Committee, “You do not need to have a Bachelor’s degree to teach literacy to a prisoner.”
Aside from the fact that Minister Elliot’s comments are incredibly insulting and shortsighted, such a comment sits in stark contrast to reforms occurring in schools where the focus is on raising the already high standards of professional educators.
Minister Elliot’s comments raise a number of interesting points that warrant further discussion and debate. For starters, how is teaching a prisoner different from teaching someone who is not incarcerated, and why does this require lower rather than higher formal qualifications?
People who come into contact with the criminal justice system are often those who left school before completing Year 10 and have comorbid factors that hinder their ability to engage with and sustain contact with education services. Given the complexity of this particular student cohort, highly-qualified educators are exactly what we need.
Goulburn Correctional Centre