IPRT welcomed the invitation by the Joint Committee on Education and Skills to make a written submission and to appear before the Committee to discuss education inequality and disadvantage. The submission is available here.
We commend the Committee for its initiative in choosing to focus on this important issue. While our area of expertise lies primarily in penal policy, IPRT views educational disadvantage and inequality as one symptom of wider social exclusion in society. Social exclusion and social injustice are intrinsically linked to penal policy.
In our work, educational inequality and disadvantage is relevant both to the experience of the child and young person but also to that of the adult learner within the prison system. In this submission, IPRT points to some key research and relevant data, while also making some broad policy recommendations.
Key points discussed in the submission include:
- Poor educational attainment levels of the prison population;
- Educational disadvantage in the Traveller population;
- Low numbers of children in education prior to their detention;
- 'At risk' cohorts, namely, children affected by parental imprisonment and children in care.
Our recommendations to the committee include:
- Regular collection and publication of data to analyse the links between educational disadvantage, social exclusion and crime.
- Investment in early intervention and prevention programmes in order to retain potential early school leavers.
- The promotion of effective alternatives to custody should be promoted in line with the Criminal Justice (Community Service) Amendment Act 2011 and international human rights standards.
- Addressing the specific barriers faced by certain cohorts of prisoners in relation to accessing education.
- A review of the current spent convictions legislation with a view to broadening criteria of convictions to which it applies.
A transcript of IPRT's appearance before the Committee is available here.