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Serco makes 'significant progress' on prison guard training

Monday 3rd October 2016

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Serco New Zealand Training, the private training establishment (PTE) set up to train workers at the prison manager's facilities, has made "significant progress" in getting its courses up to scratch after a scathing initial report from the New Zealand Qualifications Authority. 

The Auckland-based educator passed NZQA's second review of its operations, according to a Sept. 8 report published on the government agency's website. NZQA was confident in Serco Training's performance and in the capability of the PTE's self-assessment, an improvement on the initial June 2015 review that wasn't confident on either front.

In the latest review, about two-thirds or 85 of the 127 officers who completed their initial training and stayed in employment had gone on to complete their qualification, compared to 26 percent of those who had enrolled at the time of the earlier report. 

"This EER (external evaluation and review) confirms that significant progress has been made against the majority of recommendations made in the 2015 Serco Training EER report," NZQA said. "With strong support from the governance group, Serco Training has implemented a plan of improvement that has lifted the quality of education delivery and assessment and qualification achievement." 

Serco Training's 2015 report found the educator wanting with weak completion rates due to a flawed programme design, little post-assessment moderation, a lack of quality assurance on training, and too much focus on ensuring sufficient supply of prison officers due to too few resources. On the upside, the 2015 report said Serco Training met the minimum requirements for prison officer training, provided sufficient staff, and came up with a plan to improve the course. 

That came at a time when Serco's New Zealand operations were under close scrutiny after the discovery of fighting footage uploaded to the YouTube streaming video website triggered an investigation into organised fighting and access to contraband in Mt Eden Correctional Facility. The prison operator has since lost the Mt Eden contract, leaving it managing the Wiri prison in South Auckland. 

The latest NZQA report said Serco Training's improvements were partly due to "a commitment on the part of Serco to invest sufficient resources in Serco Training to enable the team to work on the programme and assessment development and address the backlog of trainees who were due to complete." 

Serco Training improved its systems to provide trainees more support, including night classes for those who needed extra hands-on help, particularly with language, literacy, and information technology course requirements. 

NZQA said the education provider had worked hard to address the issues raised in the first report, and was the result of "clear planning and the successful implementation of a number of actions for improvement", with positive and proactive responses to feedback from the government agency and industry training organisation, Skills Organisation.

The qualifications body recommended Serco Training strengthen its internal moderation systems, understand what outcomes its graduates and other stakeholders want, and develop ways to meet the language, literacy and numeracy needs of its trainees to help their learning.

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