Prison Inspectors Praise “Outstanding” Weston College Team


Educational services provided by Weston College to offenders at a South Gloucestershire open prison are “outstanding”, say government inspectors.

They arrived unannounced at HMP Leyhill for a two-week visit last September; last week, Chief Inspector of Prisons Peter Clarke published the report from that inspection.

Weston College was awarded the prestigious contract to deliver education services to offenders in prisons across the South West – including HMP Leyhill – in 2012, the year of Leyhill’s last inspection.

The focus of the College’s delivery is on transformational learning and raising aspirations to ‘create brighter futures.’

The inspection report concluded: “The provision provided by Weston College was outstanding.

“The strategic and operational planning of learning had greatly improved (since the 2012 inspection), leading to effective and constructive joint working arrangements with the education and training provider, Weston College.”

Key findings from the inspection included:

  • Most learners who started an education or vocational course completed it, and a high proportion gained their target qualification.
  • Weston College’s system for observing and evaluating the quality of teaching and learning was thorough.
  • Prisoners were unanimous in their high praise for the professionalism, dedication and skills of their teachers and instructors.
  • Qualified and enthusiastic vocational training tutors provided high-quality coaching in the vocational training and work areas.
  • Teachers’ support in education classroom sessions for the relatively large proportion of learners with a learning disability or difficulty was well-resourced and effective.
  • Teaching and learning in English and mathematics classes, and much of the vocational training sessions, were lively and highly effective.
  • Learners were confident and motivated.
  • Learners’ attendance and punctuality at education and vocational training sessions was high across the whole academic year.

The inspectors said: “the classes we observed were lively and highly effective. Prisoners were keen and eager to learn, and suitably challenged.

“Teachers focused very well on building on prisoners’ strengths and most learners made good progress.”

Michael Spurr, Chief Executive of the National Offender Management Service, said: “I am pleased that the excellent work being undertaken at Leyhill has been recognised in this report.

“The quality of skills training, work and education are impressive, providing prisoners with the skills they need to secure new jobs and prevent re-offending on release.”

Dr Paul Phillips OBE, Principal and Chief Executive of Weston College Group, said: “We are delighted with the findings of the report and the comments of the inspectors.

“We’re very proud of the work we do in the prisons, and it’s only right that the dedication, commitment and professionalism of our excellent staff is recognised. Over many years we have transformed Offender Learning and put significant investment into restructuring this area of work

“The ethos of the Weston College Group is to create brighter futures for all our learners, whatever their circumstances.

“Providing offenders with the skills they need to help them find work and to therefore significantly reduce the risks of them re-offending is extremely rewarding.

“I would like to congratulate and thank every member of the Weston College team; the many positive comments within this report is a fitting testament to their outstanding efforts.

“Of course, Weston College has not done this alone; the inspection is also a fitting tribute to the positive professional partnership we have developed with the prison.

“This partnership has helped create a highly effective, inspiring and supportive culture, reflecting the Weston College approach of putting the learner at the heart of everything we do, and working hard for the benefit of the learners.”