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Sector report: Justice 2021-2022

Prisons and young offender institutions


Number of prisons in Wales


One of which also manages an open prison


Number of young offenders’ institutions


In nearly all prisons in Wales, education and training was delivered by the prisons, rather than external agencies. In HMP Berwyn, Her Majesty’s Prison and Probation Service contracts with Novus Cambria to deliver education.


Inspections are led by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Prisons. This year, Estyn worked with partners to inspect the provision for young people in Young Offender Institution (YOI) Parc. We also participated in the inspections of HMP Berwyn and the adult provision of HMP Parc.
HMI Prisons’ published inspection reports can be found here: Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Prisons

Youth offending services (YOS)


Number of youth offending services (YOS) in Wales


Youth offending services work with young people that get into trouble with the law and also try to support them stay away from crime. Education, training and employment support is one of the specialist services provided by a YOS.


Inspections are led by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Probation.

This year we carried out inspection activities in Conwy and Denbighshire YOS as part of HMI Probation’s joint thematic review of education, employment and training services in youth offending teams in England and Wales. We also joined the re inspection of Cardiff YOS.

HMI Probation’s reports are published here: Her Majesty’s inspectorate of Probation

Secure children’s homes


Number of Secure Children’s Homes in Wales


Secure children’s homes provide secure placements for young people aged between 10 and 17 and include full residential care, educational facilities and healthcare provision.


Care Inspectorate Wales (CIW) leads on inspections of the secure children’s home but did not carry out any inspections this year.


During the pandemic restrictions in prisons, most adult prisoners were confined to their cells for up to 23 hours a day. The strong support that learners received from prison staff and peer mentors enabled many of those engaged in education to continue to access learning materials from their rooms. In HMP Berwyn, a minority of learners took advantage of in-cell telephony and IT to continue with their learning. In HMP Parc, staff and peer mentors helped learners by bringing them the materials they needed for their studies. This enabled those who participated in education to make good progress in learning, with most completing their learning targets and qualifications.

Since its last inspection, Cardiff YOS had improved young people’s access to education. However, it was still too early to see the impact of changes at individual learner level.

In the HMI Probation thematic inspection visit to Conwy and Denbighshire YOS, we found that many young people of school age engaged well with the service and improved their engagement in education. However, there were several examples of young people whose post16 progression had been stalled because their literacy skills were not sufficiently advanced to enable them take on higher levels of training.


In all prisons, prisoners were given activity packs and art equipment, which many found to be a helpful distraction, and which helped them to cope with their confinement. In YOI Parc, careful planning enabled young people to access workshops or class-based sessions throughout the period of restrictions, while minimising their risks of exposure to infection. This continued provision occupied them in a purposeful manner and supported their well-being.

When COVID-19 restrictions were lifted, prisons moved quickly to fully reopen education and work provision, enabling learners to return to learning quickly. While most learners were pleased to be taking part in sessions again, a minority in HMP Berwyn found it more difficult to get used to going to sessions, and their attendance was poor.

Teaching and learning experiences

Overall, standards of teaching in prisons were good. Nearly all teachers knew their learners well and planned teaching effectively to ensure that sessions met individual learners’ needs. Both adult prisons made very effective use of peer mentors. These mentors supported learners well, enabling them to overcome barriers to their learning and to make better progress in the sessions they attended. Education and training staff paid good attention to strengthening prisoners’ literacy and numeracy skills and nearly all prisoners improved these skills by at least one level. In the prisons we inspected, the breadth of the curriculum offer was excellent, and the range of available subjects took good account of the skills that employers need. Nearly all vocational workshops gave learners a learning environment that was realistic and that prepared them for the world of work.

Probation staff in each YOS were clear about the importance of literacy and numeracy skills to enable young people to make effective progress and transition successfully into education, employment or training. However, neither of the services we inspected had a clear strategy to ensure appropriate, targeted support for those young people who most needed to develop these skills. Nearly all YOS case workers aimed to develop clients’ wider skills, such as confidence, social skills and selfesteem, in which many learners needed to make progress. However, services did not have clear systems to track the progress young people made in developing these skills.

Care, support and guidance

In prisons, staff provided learners with a useful induction where they explained what education, vocational learning and work opportunities were available to them. They assessed their literacy and numeracy skills and signposted learners to courses at appropriate levels. This helped new arrivals to plan how they could best spend their time in prison. There were appropriate tracking systems to monitor learners’ progress and, in Parc YOI, staff met weekly to discuss how all learners were progressing, enabling staff to ensure that they were offering individually tailored support.

Staff in both adult prisons had received training to improve their awareness of learners’ additional learning needs (ALN). However, staff understanding of how they could ensure that their teaching strategies were best tailored to more complex ALN was still too variable.


Throughout the pandemic, leaders in prisons worked effectively with a team of dedicated staff to maximise the opportunities that prisoners had to access learning resources and to ensure that work activities, where possible, could continue. They gave a high priority to restoring full access to education, skills and employment, enabling prisoners to resume their involvement in activities at the earliest opportunity. Strategic planning reflected the high regard that prison leaders have for the value of education in reducing learners’ offending behaviour. When planning to strengthen provision, leaders took good account of labour market information and developed strong links with local employers in order to improve employment prospects for prisoners. However, in HMP Berwyn, staff across the prison did not do enough to challenge prisoners who chose not to participate in education, training or work.

In both YOSs we visited, staff had developed good links with the local authorities and opportunity providers to support young people in progressing into work-based learning and employment. However, not enough had been done at a strategic level to evaluate the impact of interventions or to develop strategies that ensured that all learners developed the skills they needed to make the best progress they could.