15 November 2019
After a successful trial in six prisons, this month PET launched its new application form for distance learning across England and Wales.
Based on insights from current and potential PET learners as well as prison staff, the new form is at the heart of a faster and more transparent application process. Clearer criteria keeps the applicant at the centre and ensures our support can be as effective as possible.
What’s in the new form?
Instead of writing a covering letter, in the new form applicants are asked questions about their preparation for distance learning, their reasons for applying, and their plans for the future.
There are also additional questions in the staff endorsement to help give us a fuller picture of the applicant, so we can make certain we are getting our decision-making right.
How are PET supporting prison staff through the changes?
We plan to visit a majority of prisons in England and Wales by March 2020 to ensure we are giving support and assistance where it is needed.
We have also produced new posters and leaflets to encourage more people in prison to start their learning journey with PET, and will soon be publishing a staff handbook to help staff support learners along the way.
Who did PET consult about the changes?
It was essential to have prison staff and learner involvement from the project’s beginning, finding out their perspectives and seeking ideas for improvements.
As part of the application form trial, we spoke to six focus groups made up of current learners and new applicants, in order to learn from everyone we fund. Their contributions were instrumental in ensuring the form was as clear as possible, helping us improve both the language and the layout. We also consulted staff from prisons across Wales to get their insight into the changes we were proposing.
Seeking solutions from our learners
These invaluable contributions built on the feedback we received at workshops held in three prisons in 2018 – involving people who had taken, or might want to take, PET courses.
Thanks to their observations, we understood the need to make PET more widely known in prisons; that we had to make our decision-making process clearer; and that learners sometimes lack support.
We have already acted on the groups’ suggested solutions: creating eye-catching posters and leaflets, with ‘aspirational’ messages and images focused on hope and progress; speeding up the application process and improving our outcome letters to recipients; and putting plans in place to produce a handbook for staff, including tips on how to facilitate distance learning.
Thank you to prison staff and PET learners, past and present
Clare Lloyd, PET’s Head of Service Delivery, said:
“It has been so important that past, present and future PET learners have been part of the development of our new application form. It is part of the charity’s ethos to put the learner at the centre of all that we do.
“Meetings with men at HMP Springhill in March 2018 got us off to a flying start and our alumni advisory group have been a consistent support – a critical friend as well as ensuring that their lived experience is helping PET to make this fundamental change.
“So thank you to all the prison staff, learners and alumni who have supported the launch, especially the Welsh prisons and HMP Eastwood Park who have been so patient, taking part in the trial and giving up their precious time to give feedback and suggestions for improvements.”
If you work with learners in prison and would like advice or information about courses before submitting an application, get in touch with our Access to Learning team.
© Prisoners' Education Trust 2023