2023’s top distance learning courses in prison

Home > 2023’s top distance learning courses in prison

09 July 2024

Two women walking through a warehouse and talking. One is holding a clipboard.

Last year PET helped 1,229 people start distance learning courses in prisons across England and Wales.

We offer over 130 courses in a range of sectors – from health and social care to transport and logistics – as well as GCSEs, A-levels and Open University Access modules. Read on to find out last year’s 15 most popular picks.

You can find more information on this, and all of our other work last year, in our Annual Report for 2023, which we have just published.

1. NEBOSH HSE Award in Managing Risks and Risk Assessment (RRC International) – Level 2

172 learners

This introductory health and safety course tops the poll again. Learners develop risk management skills to effectively control risks caused by hazards in the workplace.

Daniel finished the course in January last year: “I am currently eligible for my release on temporary licence and I have already been offered positions at college to study with thanks to my successful pass rates academically.”

2. NEBOSH National General Certificate in Occupational Health and Safety (RRC International) – Level 3

66 learners

This course is the next step on – intended for managers, supervisors and staff from all types of organisations who need a broad understanding of health and safety issues.

Mark was funded for the course in April 2023: “By doing this course it has helped me with my confidence, as I left school with no qualifications and now I’m an adult, I can gain qualifications for when I get released for a skilled job I like and show my family that I’m using my time wisely and to prove that I’m not going back to my old ways.”

3. IOSH Managing Safely (Clwyd Associates) – Level 2

52 learners

Aimed at managers, supervisors, small business owners, or anyone who wants a better understanding of health and safety from a supervisory point of view, this is an ideal introductory course.

Sukhwinder began the course in June last year: “Studying this course is definitely benefitting me in my personal growth, mental health and employment goals!”

4. Bookkeeping Certificate (National Extension College) – Level 2

39 learners

Accredited by the International Association of Bookkeepers (IAB), this course covers all the core elements of bookkeeping – whether for your own business or to help find work in this field.

5. CMI in Principles of Management and Leadership (National Extension College) – Level 3

38 learners

This course offers the knowledge and skills needed to manage teams effectively, create cohesive workplaces, and overcome barriers to achievement.

David completed the course in February 2023: “The course has benefitted me hugely in giving me the confidence that when I am released from custody I will have a much greater chance of securing employment in the sector I wish to go back into which is hospitality management.”

6. Business Start-up (National Extension College) – Level 2

37 learners

This course is designed to guide learners through the process of setting up their own business. It covers topics including legal and financial issues, marketing and sales, and customer service and quality.

Business Start-up learner Robbie said, “Not only does this course benefit myself but it will have a positive impact on my son’s future, as I aim to build a family business when he becomes old enough.”

7. Nutrition to Support Physical Activity (Health and Fitness Education) – Level 3

32 learners

This course provides knowledge essential for any fitness professional, including how to analyse clients’ nutritional intake, healthy eating guidelines and weight management.

Kalvin, who completed the course in December, said: “Before starting this course I was really struggling with being locked in my cell for long periods of time with not much to do. This course has made my sentence so much more bearable as I now have something to focus on and work towards.

“When I get out of prison I’d really like to work in the fitness industry. Completing this course is going to be a great first step towards that goal. For the first time in my life I’m actually enjoying education.”

8. Drug and Alcohol Counselling (Oxbridge) – Level 3

31 learners

This course equips learners with the skills and knowledge needed to become a successful substance misuse counsellor, working with people who are struggling with addiction.

Joseph, who finished the course in April this year, said, “Thank you for funding my course and helping to open up doors of opportunity I previously believed to be closed to me forever.”

9. Creative Writing Part 1 (National Extension College) – Level 2

30 learners

This course covers the basics of writing for all genres – offering learners the opportunity to improve their writing ability and boost their wellbeing.

Francesca completed the course in August last year: “I’ve loved doing my course and it’s reignited my passion for writing. Without this course I probably wouldn’t have had the confidence to start a writers’ circle. I’ve grown in confidence and I am trying new things outside of my comfort zone.”

10. Science, Technology and Maths Access Module (Y033) (The Open University) – Level 3

29 learners

Access modules are specially designed to help learners find out what it’s like to study an Open University degree and discover which subjects interest them most. This module introduces a range of subjects – including computing and IT, engineering and design, environment, mathematics and science.

Nigel finished his module in January 2023: “This has given me the confidence to do degree-level study, hence my application for a BSc (Bachelor of Science degree). Prison study is certainly a challenge – constant noise, interruptions, a roommate always around, and only 1-2 hours a week of access to the Virtual Campus – but it is certainly satisfying, more so for overcoming all those obstacles. If you can study in here you can study anywhere!”

11. Agile Project Management (CUPE International Ltd) – Level 3

26 learners

This course introduces learners to this practical project management method. Danielle, who has successfully completed the course, said, “I feel like I can use the qualifications to my full advantage to gain excellent employment. I cannot wait to do the ABC (Agile Business Consortium) Scrum Master course!”

12. RHS Certificate in Principles of Plant Growth and Development (Horticultural Correspondence College) – Level 2

25 learners

This course is an ideal first step for learners considering a career in horticulture. The course reveals the vital role horticulturists play in greening our cities and growing crops to feed the world.

Darren was funded for the course in May last year: “This course is a real discipline and is challenging me – but it is excellent to be challenged as it gives me focus and meaningful activity to do. On the best of days I still spend about 17 hours banged up, so my homework is welcome. Also, because I work as a gardener on the out, I feel that this work is a beneficial use of time that could feel wasted whilst in prison.”

13. E-Commerce – How to Build a Successful Online Business (The Inside Academy) – Level 2

20 learners

Written by someone with lived experience of prison and of running a thriving online enterprise, this course gives learners the essential knowledge required to achieve success, including the art of selling products on eBay and other online marketplaces.

14. Canine Science (Open Study College) – Level 3

19 learners

This course meets the needs of anyone wishing to work with canine animals, such as in boarding kennels and rescue homes. Learners will find out about canine behaviour and discover how to provide the correct nutrition for dogs of a variety of breeds and ages.

15=. CMI in Management and Leadership (National Extension College) – Level 5

18 learners

This qualification – aimed at aspiring managers and leaders – focuses on approaches for supporting, motivating and inspiring teams and individuals to exceed expectations.

Billy, who began the course in January last year, said, “The course is really challenging me to engage all my skill sets to produce high quality work. I am enjoying learning new material while developing myself as an aspiring manager in the engineering sector. This course so far has improved my confidence and I really feel like I am working towards a brighter future by gaining an amazing qualification and a wealth of new skills to use.”

15=. NEBOSH Certificate in Health and Safety Management for Construction (RRC International) – Level 4

18 learners

This course is designed for supervisors and managers in the construction industry and provides underpinning knowledge of managing health and safety in construction activities.

Alexander, who completed the course in January, said, “I am grateful for being given this opportunity to positively invest in my future, in relation to gaining employment on release and to give back to the community through working hard.”

This wide range of courses shows the diverse interests and aspirations of people in prison and the role that PET plays in helping them to gain the skills and qualifications that they need to thrive on release.

This year we have updated and refreshed our course offer in our new prospectus and are continuing to work with prisons across England and Wales, the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man to make sure that learners have access to the best possible range of distance learning courses.

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Learner names have been changed.

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