Written evidence submitted by City & Guilds and the City & Guilds Foundation

About City & Guilds Group

Our vision is for a world in which everyone has the skills and opportunities to succeed. We support over 4 million people each year to develop skills that help them into a job, develop on that job and to prepare for their next job. As a charity, we’re proud that everything we do is focussed on achieving this purpose. Through our assessment and credentialing, e-learning and technical training offers, we partner with our customers to deliver work-based learning programmes that build competency to support better prospects for people, organisations and wider society. We create flexible learning pathways that support lifelong employability, because we believe that people deserve the opportunity to train and learn again and again – gaining new skills at every stage of life, regardless of where they start. Our Foundation activities amplify our purpose by helping to remove barriers to getting people into a job, celebrating best practice on the job, and advocating for jobs of the future. Although as we experience the impact of Covid-19 our focus may shift to adapt to the world we’re currently living in, the issues and the principles we focus on will remain the same.

About our response

Our response to the Education Select Committee’s inquiry is informed through the awarding organisation side of the City & Guilds Group where we are the exclusive provider of qualifications in England’s prisons for:



Over 120 prisons in England and Wales work with us to support more than 60,000 learners a year in the adult and youth estate.


Additionally, our response is also formed through the work of the City & Guilds Foundation, a priority theme of whose work is supporting the rehabilitation of offenders and former offenders.


There is a recognised and agreed need to reduce reoffending and evidence shows that upskilling prisoners, together with stable accommodation and support is the most effective way to counter recidivism. The Foundation amplified its work in this area through the launch of The Future Skills Commission for Prisons in January 2020.  The Commission has been established as a vehicle for the City & Guilds Foundation to support inspirational organisations who are delivering innovative new approaches that support offenders to build skills and move into sustainable employment.


Drawing on the expertise of our Commissioners, each of whom has substantial experience in the prison sector, the Commission aims to identify and activate practical solutions that will have a measurable impact on reducing reoffending through funding pilot programmes with charities that develop new ideas about how to improve the delivery of skills in prison.


The Commissioners use the City & Guilds Foundation’s Big Idea Fund and an aligned programme of work, to support projects which can evidence that they:



Our Commissioners include:


Dame Sally Coates


Director of Secondary Education,

United Learning and who led Unlocking Potential: A Review of Education in Prison (2016) on behalf of the Government


Junior Smart OBE

Founder, SOS Gangs Project


James Timpson OBE

Chief Executive, Timpson Group


Ian Bickers

Former Deputy Director, Education, Employment, and Industries Group,

HMPPS and current Prison Group Director - London Prisons


Roisin Currie

Retail Operations and People Director, Greggs PLC, and Chair of the Employers’ Forum of Reducing Reoffending

Simon Wethered

Legal Expert, former board member of the Charity Commission and City & Guilds Council Member


Mark Norbury

Chief Executive, UnLtd




To date the Commission has approved a £483,000 investment from the City & Guilds Foundation Big Ideas Fund in three pilot programmes selected by these Commissioners. These will be delivered in prisons across the UK from April 2021.


The combination of our experience and insight is used to shape our response to the Select Committee of which the key points of our submission are:



Responses to questions

What data exist to demonstrate the effectiveness of education and training in prisons and on prisoner attainment, and what international comparisons are available?


As an organisation we have worked with the Ministry of Justice’s Datalab over a number of years to better understand and analyse the impact and effectiveness that undertaking a City & Guilds qualification whilst in prison has on an individual.


Figures published by the Ministry of Justice in January 2019 examined the reoffending behaviour of 5,768 people who registered for one of six City & Guilds courses whilst in prison. The results show that those who registered for and participated in a course in Construction, Hospitality or Maths and English were less likely to reoffend, and committed fewer reoffences, than those who did not register for any course.

This is in addition to Datalab statistics published in February 2017, which found that offenders who had enrolled on a City & Guilds qualification and gained certification within the year being analysed, were less likely to re-offend, had a lower frequency of re-offences, and took longer to re-offend than those who had not.

The findings clearly show the positive impact learning has, with reoffenders taking a City & Guilds course in Construction, Maths & English or Hospitality are all significantly less likely to commit another offence than those who do not.

As well as reduced reoffending rates, those undertaking a City & Guilds course were also more likely to experience longer gaps before reoffending.


More recently, in July 2019 Ministry of Justice Datalab statistics looked at the reoffending behaviour of 209 adults who participated in The Clink Restaurant training programme, where adults undertook industry-recognised City & Guilds qualifications. This data shows that getting into work soon after release cuts re-offending by a third.[1] Pro Bono Economics (PBE) conducted[2] a cost benefit analysis of The Clink Charity’s intervention by measuring the cost of running the scheme per head against the benefits provided to the taxpayer through reducing reoffending rates. 


The report also provided a scenario analysis looking more closely at types of offences committed by prisoners. The report showed that re-offenders whose first-time offence is in a serious crime category are much more likely to commit more serious and costly crimes when reoffending, indicating that the estimated benefit of The Clink programme could be significantly higher. The report demonstrates the potentially significant returns to society from supporting prisoners through industry-recognised City & Guilds qualifications and communicating with potential employers while they remain in prison.


Expanding on the economic perspective of this question, there is a value to wider society in effective education and training in prisons which the committee should take into consideration. Indeed, unlocking the skills potential of the UK’s prison population could put £500million[3] a year back into the economy in lowering reoffending rates alone, a much-needed boost as we seek to rebuild the economy following Covid-19 and in the light of Brexit. City & Guilds research shows that prisoners who receive formal skills training in prison improve employment prospects on release from 50% to 89%.[4] With 75,000 prisoners released each year, improving skills is key to both keeping ex-offenders out of prison and enabling them to make a valuable contribution to the community.


Does education in prisons deliver the skills needed by employers, and what more can be done to better align these?


In answering this question, we quote from the expertise of one of our Commissioners, Junior Smart.


Writing in the Times[5] in September 2020 Junior Smart said:


Helping people gain skills that help them get and keep a job reduces reoffending by a third. This may surprise you, but in my experience if prisoners have an employment offer, of any sort, they will take it. What makes it more likely that this will result in long-term rehabilitation is if there’s a chance you could build a career from it, that it’s sustainable and there’s a decent salary.


I know this because I was one of the lucky ones. I came out of prison and started a job the very next day with St Giles’s peer adviser programme. That’s because I was able to gain a meaningful qualification while in prison in something I was passionate about. I could therefore get a job doing something I love — stopping young people from making the mistakes I did.


He continues by talking about his involvement with the City & Guild’s Future Skills Commission which is finding new ways to unlock skills and employment potential and cut re-offending.


To get this right, the below is something the committee should consider regarding what more can be done in terms of better aligning education in prisons and employer need:



Another example in helping deliver the skills needed for employers via education in prisons is through our work with the St Giles Trust.


The City & Guilds Foundation has supported the St Giles Trust through their Skills Development Fund programme to up skill peer advisors who are supporting offenders and ex-offenders to progress into employment. Peer advisors work towards an accredited City & Guilds Level 3 Advice and Guidance qualification whilst undertaking supported work placements – either with St Giles Trust or partner organisations who share the vision of putting lived experience at the heart of their work - as part of the vocational element of the qualification.


Awarded £100,000 through the City & Guilds Foundation Fund, St Giles Trust were able to develop a qualification and trained 63 peer advisors. These peer advisors are working with over 100 people, who are now three times more likely to be employed having had some contact with the St Giles Trust programme. The estimated saving to the public purse as a result of these people having been reached through the programme is £6.5m over three years – demonstrating the impact that employment has on preventing reoffending.


PwC has evaluated the work of our Peer Advisors programme and concluded that for every £1 spent on the programme, approximately £8.54 in social value has been generated through a mixture of economic benefits, human capital gains, avoided Exchequer costs and wellbeing improvements among programme participants.[6]These are results that many businesses and firms would be proud to boast of. And they are produced by a section of society who are often rejected by employers as soon as they disclose their conviction.


The diagram below, created as part of Cranfield University’s evaluation of the Skills Development Fund, provides an indication as to the impact of our investment in the St Giles Trust.



How might apprenticeships work for those in custody?


Apprenticeships are restricted for those in custody due to a number of challenges such as employment status, wages, funding etc which would require several government departments working together in order for them to be possible. 

It would be possible for the Government to approve the use of Apprenticeship Levy funding to those employers who work in/with prisoners or allow Levy payers to gift some of their funding. The latter is an approach supported by James Timpson, the Chief Executive of Timpson Group who has previously said: ‘Wouldn’t it be great if we could give the £700,000, we have in our Apprenticeship Levy pot (that we can’t use), and give it to prisons to train inmates in new skills, making it easier for them to get a job on release? Helps business, helps communities, helps those in prison.’[7] 

We would encourage the Ministry of Justice to trial this as a potential solution in some of the open prisons as a starting point.

We would also suggest that the Government look at prisons independently during this next period of Covid-19 restrictions. For areas such as Functional Skills exams (an essential part of an apprenticeship) the assessment for this cannot be accessed due being locked in cell and there is no remote assessment option possible. 

In May 2019, an AELP/ERSA report Prisoner Apprenticeship Pathway[8] called for a cross-Government approach to enable more prisoners to take up apprenticeship opportunities while still in prison, and consequently improving the chances of finding sustainable employment upon release.


The report notes a number of recommendations for the Prisoner Apprenticeship Pathway which was first proposed by the MoJ in 2016. These include:

Apprenticeships are not legally allowed in prisons, and the current paper packs distributed to prison cells are not sufficient in delivering qualifications for prisoners.  Digital solutions are one option for improving upon this, however tablets and devices need to be able to provide offline content.

In recent years City & Guilds has piloted the issuing of a small range of Digital Credentials, these include a number of key qualifications which are used in the prisons sector such as Functional Skills, cleaning, catering, and construction. The introduction of Digital Credentials against qualifications and potentially against other softer skills frameworks is an area we are keen to explore to further support the reduction of prison offending.

This solution is also one we’re keen to explore further with prisons, and we’d like to understand how the uptake of Digital Credentials can be increased for those in prisons and custody, as well as understanding any potential barriers to issuing them. From previous conversations with stakeholders in the prison education sector we understand that there have been some issues related to data and access to emails, but we are keen to understand these further as potential solutions might be available.

Another of our solutions which is available in prisons is the City & Guilds SmartScreen. This provides high quality online teaching and learning support for tutors, learners and assessors of City & Guilds qualifications. Currently those prisons with a SmartScreen can access learning via a tutor, however we’re working with Novus at the moment to explore how it would be possible for prisoners to be able to log in directly (and safely). We believe that this can be provided in a secure manner which would provide near parity with those learners outside of the prison estate.

Our hope is that through increased access to areas such as Digital Credentials and SmartScreens, it would make it much easier for those in prison to undertake and achieve qualifications. For those in custody or transferring to another prison, it would make their qualifications portable and much easier to demonstrate and evidence upon leaving prison.


How effective and flexible is prison education and training in dealing with different lengths of sentences and the movement of prisoners across the estate?


The truth is, learning in prison is impacted by the infrastructure available. This is in addition to the differences that exist between prisons and the negative impact that moving from one prison to another has on prisoners’ education.


Generally speaking, many prisoners lack the equipment that they need to help them to learn. This is something which we’ve sought to innovate and improve upon in the work that we do. 


We have helped the training provider Novus in putting smart screens into prisons. SmartScreen is our online system that gives unit-specific support materials for City & Guilds qualifications.


Tutors can access and download a range of support resources including:

                      lesson plans


                      sample assignments

                      sample schemes of work


                      revision guides             


Learners benefit from engaging materials that use real world examples of learning and applying skills and includes videos and interactive e-learning.


Through the Foundation's Big Idea Fund, we are also supporting two pilots which will test the effectiveness of education delivery via three technologies – tablets, virtual reality headsets and mechanical simulators. If successful these offer the potential to bring learning to prisons that do not currently have the physical infrastructure needed to deliver comparable courses.


In response to the demands of Covid-19, we’ve provided emergency funding for the St Giles Trust’s peer adviser network online platform which will allow it to continue to train and support peer advisers remotely when face to face contact is not possible.

In terms of the resources we provide, learners can access the information they need to support them during their course. Our textbooks and logbooks are developed with industry experts and complement our qualifications.

We also ensure flexible methods for online testing to paper examinations which gives the opportunity to assess learners in diverse settings – from secure to open establishments.



January 2021


[1] https://theclinkcharity.org/theclinkcharity/wp-content/uploads/2019/08/JDL_The_Clink_report.pdf

[2] https://www.probonoeconomics.com/the-clink-charity-an-economic-impact-analysis

[3] A City & Guilds skills qualification in prison is valued at £34,000 per year saving to taxpayer by the New Economic Unit database in re-offending and social costs. Assuming 75,000 prisoners are released each year if one fifth (15,000) do not re-offend, the value to the economy is £504m each year. Source: MOJ JDL, 2019 and New Economy Unit.

[4] https://cityandguildsfoundation.org/2020/09/new-skills-fund-to-unlock-500m-per-year-employment-potential-of-uk-prison-population-supporting-efforts-to-rebuild-after-covid/

[5] https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/meaningful-work-will-keep-ex-offenders-like-me-out-of-prison-f6n0hwwgl

[6] https://www.pwc.co.uk/sustainability-climate-change/assets/st-giles-trust-report.pdf

[7] https://twitter.com/jamestcobbler/status/1090618272356188160?lang=en-gb

[8] https://www.aelp.org.uk/media/3139/pathway-report.pdf