Welsh Prisons Project

In 2015 PET was awarded £500,000 to complete a pilot project focused on the five prisons in Wales (Parc, Cardiff, Swansea, Usk and Prescoed), starting to work in HMP Berwyn and Gloucestershire women's prison HMP Eastwood Park in 2017. The pilot introduced a closer way of working within the prison, to fully understand the needs of each learner within their learning environment, working closely with staff themselves. By the end of the pilot, there had been a 53% increase in the number of distance learners in prisons in Wales. At the end of 2017, we were awarded further funding to continue this work in Wales, and have decided to expand this regional approach into prisons in England. 

PET's work has included: 

  • Designing and distributing a learner welcome pack including a new student handbook
  • Hundreds of face-to-face advice sessions
  • Group study skills sessions
  • Establishing prisoner peer distance learning coordinators and mentors to provide additional support to prisoners
  • Initiating Education Fayres at four of the five prisons, supported by local colleges and universities
  • Building links with colleges and universities, most notably our partnership with Cardiff Metropolitan University
  • Expanding the advice provision to “through the gate”, providing advice to individuals as they apply to attend university on release, or aim to continue their studies in the community

Matthew Jones, a prison teacher at HMP Prescoed, has been one of PET's key partners in offering more support to distance learners. 

He says: 

"I cannot stress enough how valuable I feel the partnership we have is within this open establishment. Prescoed is a resettlement prison which means many of the men here are starting to step back into the world of work and many look to PET to gain funding for distance learning courses that are purposeful and worthwhile to enhance their CV’s or to gain the essential qualifications that may allow them to apply for a particular position in the community. 

"I do feel that PET have adapted their approach to the demands of an open estate superbly and have funded some new courses that are specific to roles within the prison as well as in the community. For example one learner has just gained funding to begin a distance learning course with the Beekeeper’s Association (I wager that this is a first!) which will provide him with a recognised qualification to show for months of hard work put into our beehives here at the prison.

"Iva, the representative from the PET makes regular visits to Prescoed providing support and guidance to all leaners. She helps by trying to find courses and support to aid vastly contrasting career paths. I personally find Iva’s input and support vital to the successes we have here with our distance learning community."

To find out more about PET's work in Welsh Prisons, contact project head Clare Lloyd.