What you Need to Know for a Role in Prison Education

May 8, 2024

Are you interested in pursuing a career within prison education? 

With a new report published by the Social Market Foundation highlighting the crucial role that education programmes play in rehabilitating offenders, this could be a rewarding new position for the right candidate. 

To help you on your journey, we’ve highlighted the important factors you should consider when looking into this role to ensure you’re fully equipped and prepared. 

Personal skills 

Prisons are highly unique work environments, with no two days being the same. 

Therefore, the right candidate must display resilience, adaptability, and confidence, as well as being a strong communicator.  

How does the role look? 

Those working within prison education roles will work in various settings, including onsite workshops, classrooms, onsite employment hubs and offices.  

Roles are typically 37 hours a week on a Monday to Friday schedule. In some cases, part-time or flexible working may be available, but you will need to discuss this at the interview stage and agree on a suitable working pattern with your line manager. 

The specific role you choose will determine how your day-to-day life will look: 


Instructors are responsible for the supervision of prisoners in the workshop, alongside mentoring, coaching, and supporting prisoners to earn industry recognised qualifications. Specifics include: 

Production instructor 

Production instructors operate within workshops that engage in two primary activities: manufacturing specific items for prisons, such as breakfast packs for inmates, or offering goods and services to external entities, such as packaging greeting cards. 

 In this role, responsibilities include: 

  • Supervising groups of prisoners within the workshop 
  • Establishing work schedules and ensuring the achievement of delivery goals 
  • Providing support and motivation to prisoners to successfully complete tasks 
  • Ensuring adherence to quality standards 

Vocational instructional officers 

Your role will involve conducting workshops where prisoners learn new vocational skills through hands-on experience. These workshops vary across different prisons and encompass a variety of vocational roles including cycle repair, vehicle maintenance, bricklaying, painting, and decorating. 

In this role, responsibilities include: 

  • Establishing work schedules and overseeing the achievement of delivery targets and quality standards 
  • Supervising prisoners during their assigned tasks 
  • Providing vocational training and assessing prisoners’ progress based on these qualifications 

Specialist production instructors 

Specialised production instructors operate in workshops that vary from one prison to another, covering specific areas such as: 

  • Engineering 
  • Horticulture 
  • Printing 
  • Textiles 
  • Waste management 
  • Woodworking 

Education, skills and work strategy and implementation 

Individuals within these roles ensure prisoners can access a range of opportunities to engage in work opportunities. Specifics include: 

Learning and skills manager 

In this position, you will oversee the implementation of the education curriculum within the prison. This involves collaborating with various departments, partner agencies, and prisoners to enhance engagement in ESW (Education, Skills, and Work) initiatives. 

Additionally, your responsibilities will include: 

  • Supervising the procurement of ESW interventions 
  • Ensuring quality assurance 
  • Promoting continuous improvement 

Head of education, skills, and work 

This role is designed for an experienced educator. 

As a member of the senior leadership team within a prison, you will play a key role in creating a learning environment, specifically targeting: 

  • Improving prisoners’ numeracy and literacy skills 
  • Increasing the number of prisoners obtaining qualifications 
  • Enhancing prisoners’ employment prospects 

This will require collaboration with various stakeholders, including the prison’s education provider, workshop leads, and local employers and organisations that hire individuals transitioning from prison. 

ID and banking administrator 

Your responsibilities will involve offering administrative assistance to assist prisoners in preparing for employment upon their release from prison. 

This includes: 

  • Facilitating the matching of prisoners with job opportunities 
  • Assisting individuals in organising the necessary documents required for employment in the community 
  • Supporting prisoners in preparing for Release on Temporary Licence (ROTL) work placements 

Neurodiversity support manager 

Your role will involve implementing a comprehensive approach throughout the prison to support the needs of neurodivergent prisoners. 

Specifically, you will: 

  • Introduce enhanced procedures to identify and address the needs of neurodivergent prisoners, which will include providing training to staff. 
  • Share pertinent information with colleagues to ensure reasonable adjustments are implemented, fostering a more supportive environment for neurodivergent individuals. 
  • Identify any additional requirements individuals may have as they prepare for release from prison. 

Additionally, you will assist in facilitating prisoners’ access to educational, skill development, and employment opportunities available within the prison. This includes offering specialist or targeted support where practical and appropriate. 

Prison employment lead 

In your role as the employment lead, you will identify prisoners who are adequately prepared both practically and mentally to assist them in applying for jobs. 

Your responsibilities will include: 

  • Sharing pertinent job opportunities with eligible individuals. 
  • Collaborating with individuals to ensure they obtain the necessary training or accreditations required for industry-specific roles. 

Industries manager 

As a prison industries manager, your role will involve ensuring the smooth operation of the prison workshops, overseeing all activities to ensure they offer meaningful work for prisoners. This includes monitoring performance and budgets, and ensuring production meets contractual obligations. 

Additionally, you will be responsible for managing, supervising, and motivating both staff and prisoners within the workshops. You will ensure that all work complies with health and safety legislation and maintains quality management standards. 

Skills and qualifications 

The skills and qualifications required depend on the specific type of prison education role you apply for. 

The types of roles include: 

  • Production instructors (band 3) 
  • Vocational instructional officers (band 4) 
  • Specialist production instructors (band 4) 
  • Learning and skills managers (band 6) 
  • Heads of education, skills, and work (band 7 or 8) 
  • ID and banking administrators (band 3) 
  • Neurodiversity support managers (band 6) 

As a minimum, all teachers within offender learning must hold a Level 3 teaching qualification alongside Level 2 Maths and English qualifications, but ideally must hold a level 5 Certificate of Education or PGCE. 

More information can be found on the HM Prison and Probate Service website

DBS checks 

To work in a prison education role in the UK, you would typically need to undergo a DBS check. This check is essential for positions that involve working with vulnerable adults or children, as it helps employers make safer recruitment decisions by identifying individuals who may be unsuitable for such roles due to prior criminal convictions or other relevant information. 

For roles within prison education, which often involve direct contact with individuals in custody, an Enhanced DBS Check with a check against the barred list for working with adults would likely be required. This level of check provides a detailed background check, including any spent or unspent convictions, cautions, reprimands, or warnings held on the police database. 

Additionally, specific roles within prison education may have additional requirements or checks based on the nature of the work and the population being served. It’s best to check with the employer or relevant authorities for precise details regarding DBS requirements for a particular role. 

Are you ready to pursue a career in prison education? 

A career in this field can be a really rewarding experience! If you’re interested in this line of work and would like to browse some available roles, or receive further guidance on the application process, please get in touch with the Bookmark team and we’ll be sure to help you out.