Course cutting strangely abrupt

MATTHEW DALLAS - DEPUTY EDITOR
Last updated 12:00 17/07/2014

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There appears to have been a distinct lack of communication, or at least cooperation, in the Department of Corrections' dumping of an automotive course from its Kaitoke Prison education programme.

The move has fired up the Tertiary Teachers Union (TEU), left course provider UCOL baffled and busy reorganising staff, with inmates the collateral damage.

Corrections claim the course wasn't meeting expectations, had poor pass rates and the NCEA credits gained were not contributing to a "significant qualification". But is is surprising such concerns do not appear to have been addressed with UCOL earlier, and puzzling how at odds the criticisms are with the college's own assessment of the course.

UCOL said completion rates had been good and a drop in the past six months was attributable to Corrections taking prisoners off the programme before they could finish it.

TEU branch president Tina Smith said the course was "the perfect opportunity to give prisoners a qualification and real employment prospects".

Yet Corrections' Lower North Island regional commissioner Paul Tomlinson viewed the same course as no longer meeting the needs of prisoners.

Ultimately, Corrections can pick which ever programme and provider it wishes, but it seems strange it wouldn't first look to address the issues with UCOL, reshaping the course where needed, or at least wait until the present course was completed before ending the deal and switching to another provider.

While the prison is still offering courses in other trades, as well as literacy and numeracy, one can't help but wonder what the view of the inmates is, particularly those who found their automotive course cut short.

UCOL's claim that Corrections had been pulling prisoners from the course for the past six months, hurting the pass rates, suggests they had become pawns in an administrative wrangle.

Given New Zealand's grim recidivism rates - 49 per cent of prisoners in New Zealand are back behind bars within four years of being released - it's reasonable to expect many prisoners take some encouragement before they buy into education opportunities.

It is troubling to think their participation in an education programme on this occasion may have only rekindled attitudes of contempt and mistrust.

ONE MORE THING

The present spike in burglaries should have residents who don't have security lights and alarms seriously considering them. A little peace of mind is well worth the cost.

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- Manawatu Standard

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