Learning from our learners

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29 January 2019

Drawing on whiteboard

We want to learn from the men and women who we fund – to gain perspectives that are honest, personal and rooted in reality. So recently we held workshops in three prisons, involving current and potential PET learners, to find out their perspectives.

What do you think of Prisoners’ Education Trust? Is what we do working? How could we be more effective? Involve more learners? Make a bigger difference? 

As a charity trying to create the biggest impact with limited funds, these are questions we ask ourselves all the time. As we approach our 30th birthday, we want to learn from the men and women who we fund – to gain perspectives that are honest, personal and rooted in reality.

What we did 

Last year we held workshops in three prisons, involving people who had taken, or might want to take, PET courses. We visited HMPs Coldingley, Send and Spring Hill nine times to meet with groups of learners, finding out about their perspectives of PET, and getting ideas for improvements.  Running two of the workshops was CJ Burge, a law graduate and St Giles’ Trust staff member who was once funded by PET herself. The involvement of someone with CJ’s energy and integrity, as well as her ‘lived experience’ of prison, added a lot to the workshops.

CJ said: “It was amazing for me to go into these prisons and see the real passion there was among the men and women learning there. There was so much untapped enthusiasm to contribute to PET’s work, and to come up with solutions – really creative and far-sighted solutions – to some of the barriers that can occur with education.”

What we found out

Learners said Suggested solutions
PET is not widely known enough Create eye-catching posters and leaflets, with ‘aspirational’ messages focused on hope and progress

Train peer mentors to promote opportunities

Mention PET in inductions

It can be hard to understand how funding decisions are made Share clearer information with learners and staff on our website, leaflets and posters

Speed up the application process

Learners sometimes lack information about courses Produce a digital curriculum that prison staff can search and print for learners

Provide more information about how certain courses can lead to work, with success stories

Ask learners to review courses, with possible rating system

Learners sometimes lack support Train peer mentors to support others

Create a ‘PET handbook’ for staff, including tips on how to facilitate distance learning

Encourage prisons to create dedicated spaces/groups for distance learning

What’s next? 

Since 1989, we’ve funded more than 40,000 courses for people in prison. In the next 30 years, we want to fund more learners and make a bigger difference to those we do help.

Views from these workshops are going alongside the opinions of PET staff and prison staff, trustees and alumni to help improve the way we fund courses and support learners in the future.

In the short-term, we plan on producing new materials, a new website, and introducing a clearer way to apply. In the long-term, we hope to also involve peer mentors and digital courses – watch this space!

Thank you to all the workshop participants for their help in improving what we do.

This project was possible through funding from Erasmus +.

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