Learner Experience - Functional Skills


An individual prisoners' experience of Offender Learning in the UK.

'Oliver’ is a literacy learner and offender in a London prison. The symptoms of ADHD and dyslexia used to make writing and spelling a stressful and upsetting process, but an anti-drugs project in one of his lessons transformed his learning experience. Oliver previously found writing even the shortest of sentences a daunting prospect – he would wring his hands, rub his forehead and place his head in his hands, complaining that we was getting stressed and unable to carry on due to a lack of focus.

Functional Skills Tutor ‘Denise’, who teaches Entry Level Literacy, introduced an anti-drugs project into one of her lessons, in which learners inspected posters and determined how the images influenced age groups and colours were used to persuade young people not to take drugs.

Oliver was captivated, as the topic resonated with his own experiences. He wrote half a page of continuous text and, with permission, transferred this onto a computer, so he could use the machine’s spelling tools. Denise says: “Without stress or drama he went on to complete an E3 Literacy exam. He typed the writing part of the exam with pinpoint focus, to such a degree that his intelligence and true personality shone through.”

Oliver, completely rejuvenated by the project, gained newfound confidence and self-esteem. He also spotted an opportunity to make a genuine difference to other people’s lives, by discouraging them from following the path to a life of crime. Denise continued: “The project developed by allowing him to finish the assignment by designing a powerful title for a poster, which will hopefully be displayed for prisoners’ families and friends in the ‘Visits’ department. He eventually wants to enter it into a writing competition being run by the prison reform trust. More importantly, his overriding motivation to complete the project was to help others avoid prison because of the pointlessness, futility and damage that drugs bring to a young person’s life and the people around them."

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