Prisoner Learning Alliance appoints new Chair, Professor Tom Schuller

16 Jan 2018

As the Prisoner Learning Alliance (PLA) moves into an exciting new phase, opening up membership to organisations and individuals and electing a new steering committee, we are very proud to announce the appointment of a new Chair, Professor Tom Schuller (MA, PGCE, DrPhil).

Tom brings to the PLA significant academic expertise in adult education, alongside a long-standing interest in prison education. In the last decade, he has directed the UK national inquiry into the future of lifelong learning (IFLL) and co-authored its final report, Learning Through Life (NIACE – now Learning and Work Institute, 2009); been the principal editor of UNESCO’s 3rd Global Report on Adult Learning (2016); and published a book on how and why women’s competences are under-rewarded (The Paula Principle). He has chaired the governing board of the Working Men’s College in Camden for nine years and is a visiting professor at the UCL Institute of Education and the University of Wolverhampton. Tom also served as a member of Prisoners’ Education Trust (PET)’s Learning Matters Advisory Group from 2012.

The PLA currently consists of 23 diverse organisations all committed to shaping the future of prison education. From January 2018, membership will be opening up to welcome any organisation or individual that shares the PLA’s purpose and mission.

Tom will oversee this exciting period, chairing quarterly meetings of the PLA’s new steering committee and ensuring the PLA has a valuable independent voice at its heart. Under his guidance, the PLA aims to strengthen its reach, expertise and influence and continue working towards its vision: that all prisoners can engage in high-quality and diverse learning opportunities to help them transform their lives.

Speaking following his appointment, Tom said:

 “2018 will be a critical year for prison education, as prison governors assume new powers to commission education services.

I’m really delighted to have the opportunity to join the PLA. It has a pivotal role to play in ensuring this process achieves the best possible outcomes for learners, and in holding government to account to deliver on the recommendations of Dame Sally Coates’ review of prison education.

There has never been a better time to become a member and add your voice and expertise to the PLA’s cause.”   

Diana Sutton, Director at PLA member The Bell Foundation and chair of the interview panel, said:

“We were impressed by Tom’s long-standing commitment to education in all its forms, his significant experience in directorial and governance roles and his vision for the PLA’s future.”

Alexandra Marks CBE, who has Chaired the PLA since its foundation in 2012, will be stepping down and handing over her duties to Tom on 2nd February.

Alexandra said:

“I am honoured to have led the PLA for the past five years. Together, Alliance members have helped bring a more ambitious vision for prison education to the forefront of prison policy and practice. I look forward to the PLA going on from strength to strength under Tom’s leadership.”

Alexandra will continue in her duties as Chair of Trustees at Prisoners’ Education Trust, a position she has held since 2012.

Nina Champion, Head of Policy at PET (PLA Secretariat), said:

“On behalf of all PLA members, we would like to extend our heartfelt thanks to Alexandra for her dedication and guidance over the last five years. We owe her a huge debt of gratitude for all that she has done for the PLA.”

If you are interested in becoming a member of the PLA, either as an organisation or an individual, contact Robert Cremona.