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RighttoReadUpadteNewpainttooKeep prisoners learning

In the first set of comparable figures for more than a decade, the government has revealed that 46% of people entering the prison system have literacy skills no higher than those of an 11-year-old. This is three times the 15% found in the adult population generally.


Some 52% of those assessed have the equivalent capability in numeracy, which compares with 49% of the general public. The statistics also show that 46% of newly assessed prisoners have Level 1 and Level 2 literacy skills, (GCSE equivalent) compared with 85% of the general population. In contrast, 39.8% of prisoners assessed had the equivalent level of numeracy skills compared with 50% of the general population.

Almost a third (23,550) of the prisoners assessed said they have a learning difficulty or disability.


Prisoners’ Education Trust chief executive Rod Clark said: “The data is representative of people going into prison who are largely serving shorter sentences and therefore does not give a reliable picture of the prison population at any one time. Nevertheless, it does indicate that many prisoners have lower levels of literacy than the general public and that needs to be addressed.

“These figures represent individuals who were failed by the conventional education system the first time. So prisons need to provide new approaches to engage, incentivise and support them to get essential skills in English and maths and then to keep learning.”

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