'Barry' at HMP Manchester explains why offender learning schemes are so important to him and how they helped him turn his life around.
"While in Education I worked hard to complete Maths, Peer Mentoring and Industrial Cleaning. Throughout my time in education I regained the self-esteem that I lost when my life turned around for the worse.
Education helped me to gain confidence in my ability and skills and being in prison for the first time (which I did not know what to expect) it helped me build relationships with teaching staff and classroom colleagues. Education gave me the purpose to survive in prison and get my brain in gear to get back on track in a positive way again.
I am very proud to say that I have come so far with my journey – I am now a Wing Peer Mentor and a Listener – this is a very supportive role and it allows me to use the skills that I developed in the Peer Mentoring class. It gives me a great feeling to know that I am helping others who are struggling to cope in prison. I am also part of the rehabilitative culture committee – this again gives me an opportunity to work with prison staff and Governors to shape Manchester’s vision.
Education staff have really helped me on my journey – I am so grateful for all the support and how all the education staff treated me in such a civilised manner – this helped me create positive relationships and has even got me one of the most trusted jobs in the prison.
One of my highlights in Education was when I was asked to be a guide for the Anne Frank exhibition. I had to study for three days to learn the whole story of Anne Frank and why it is still very relevant today. Having the opportunity as a guide made me feel good about myself and proud that I was giving something back to the community. I was able to promote Equality and Diversity and make learners and staff understand the problems that can arise through ignorance and prejudice.
At the beginning of my journey I thought that I could never engage again in education, I thought I couldn’t do it when I started the maths class, but I realised I could with the time and support given to me by the teaching staff.
I get a real buzz telling my kids I have certificates, it makes me feel proud at my age and shows that you are never too old to learn!"