To attain a level 3 qualification in prison is a huge achievement; not only in terms of the practical limitations, but also in facing the previous learning/ education barriers many have had prior to prison. It shows a huge commitment from the offender to learn and rehabilitate, and often requires a financial commitment as learners over the age of 24 are not funded.
For the students at HMP Long Lartin, many of whom are too far away from release to be eligible for a student loan, funding has been provided by the Prisoners’ Education Trust, which has provided a lifeline for those that wish to extend their learning.
Three of the four learners that graduated with a degree have spoken passionately about what education in prison means to them:
“Given a life sentence early in 2007, I was all but written off. Fast forward eight years and I am sitting in my cell with a first class honours degree proudly displayed on the wall, years of consistent ‘model’ prisoner behaviour behind me and a progressive transfer imminent as I work towards release. During many solitary hours of work – tough to motivate myself for in the early days, I found in myself qualities hitherto unsuspected: discipline, perseverance, determination and the harder I tried, the better my results; my confidence grew and the world began to look different.”
“My education background was troubled – I left school with no academic qualifications after being expelled. As a result, studying for a degree was overwhelming in the beginning. The knowledge and understanding of myself, gained through the degree has allowed me to take responsibility for my past. Looking forward, I believe this insight has been a life-changing step in the right direction. On the whole, it has been a positive, uplifting and unforgettable experience. Education has been instrumental in changing my perspectives and the way I see the world and myself within it. The only thing that makes me the same person is I have the continuation of memories from my past. Education and being awarded a degree makes me look to the future. For anyone who is thinking of studying, it is never too late. All you need is the will and determination to succeed.”
“It was an achievement that I am proud of as I found it both very challenging and rewarding as studying in a prison environment is particularly challenging. Yet every second of blood sweat and tears is worth it once you complete the final exam and are given your certificate. It will assist me to gain employment upon release as well as building my confidence in tackling difficult challenges. Education is THE best way to rehabilitate and reduce reconviction rates. “
HMP Long Lartin is not the only prison to have students who are studying beyond level 2 learning. HMP Isle of Wight currently have 2 students studying at level 3. While students enter the education provision at different levels of learning, typically they have progressed from Entry level through to level 2 through Milton Keynes College.
One student, Goss, began his learning journey at level 1. Goss has gained qualifications in Maths, IT and Bricklaying and is shortly due to begin studying for a Level 3 Diploma in Painting and Decorating after he secured funding via a Student Loan. Once completed, Goss will have achieved an industry recognised qualification in painting and decorating, significantly improving his chances of employment post release.
Milton Keynes College work with approximately 25,000 offenders each year across the country in custody. The College is passionate about providing education to offenders to equip them with the relevant skills for employment, significantly reducing the likelihood of reoffending.
Source: MK College Learner Experiences