Rod Clark | 14 April 2021
Leaving PET as Chief Executive does feel like a big wrench. But, as the flowers blossom and spring really gets underway, I don’t want these final reflections to dwell on what has gone before so much as to look ahead to the sunny future that I am sure PET has before it.
The last year has seen unprecedented trials, distress and challenge. There are worrying moves from the Government to increase the numbers of people in prison. And although it is willing to spend lavishly to build more prison places, there is little sign yet of the financial investment needed to improve the quality of the experience and support prisoners need.
But despite that, I believe that we can look to the future of prison education policy and practice with cautious optimism. Backed up by research evidence (including some that PET has contributed), the case for prison education is stronger than ever.
I believe that we can look to the future of prison education policy and practice with cautious optimism. Backed up by research evidence… the case for prison education is stronger than ever
An effect of the lockdown over the last year has been to catapult to prominence the importance of digital learning. And, although prisons have lacked the infrastructure and investment to take advantage of that so far, the lesson has not been lost on prison service and education staff, think tanks (both Reform and the Centre for Social Justice have published reports on this recently) and, dare I say it, current Ministers.
Certainly the appointment of Charlie Taylor, an educationalist, as Chief Inspector of Prisons and the recent interest from the Education Select Committee both put prison education on the agenda.
My other reason for optimism is that I believe PET is leaving lockdown as a stronger organisation than it went into it.
Lockdown forced us to accelerate a shift to more digital working: to communicate via phone and e-mail with prisoners; to meet prison, education and our own staff virtually; to run highly popular webinars for members of the Prisoner Learning Alliance; and to make our own internal processes work without paper.
I have already mentioned the wonderfully talented staff, trustees and volunteers. They have the skills, abilities and dedication to achieve wonders. And Jon Collins joining the team as CEO – with his wealth of previous experience and expertise in criminal justice – will bring added strength and new energy.
The commitment of our supporters has been simply amazing over the difficult period of lockdown and their generosity is the bedrock on which we will continue to achieve what we do.
As an organisation, we were just implementing our new process for course applications at the start of 2020; that proved a godsend in allowing us to operate effectively with staff working at home.
And the lockdown forced us to accelerate a shift to more digital working: to communicate via phone and e-mail with prisoners; to meet prison, education and our own staff virtually; to run highly popular webinars for members of the Prisoner Learning Alliance; and to make our own internal processes work without paper.
PET now works in completely novel ways compared to 2019. I am sure that the creativity and energy released from that experience means we can look ahead confidently to more change, as we equip ourselves to deliver 21st century services in the seasons ahead.
I am sure it will be an exciting journey. I will follow it eagerly and all my heartfelt best wishes go with you on it.
© Prisoners' Education Trust 2023