Project information

Changing course; education for older prisoners

The needs of older men and women in prison are often forgotten. This project will provide prisoners over 50 years of age with vital educational opportunities to build knowledge & self-esteem. So many older prisoners want to study & become a positive influence; with your help we can make this happen.

12 months

Charity information

Prisoners Education Trust

Prisoners Education Trust logo
  • Need


    Ever-lengthening sentences are creating an ageing prison population growing old and frail with high rates of unmet support needs. The educational and employment potential of older prisoners is often dismissed, and they struggle to access opportunities which would give them a better chance on release; often physical barriers prevent them from even being able to reach education departments. With long hours stuck in cell with no constructive or purposeful activity, the potential for change is lost.


    Distance learning provides prisoners with the opportunity to study courses in subjects and levels not otherwise available in prison. As study is self-directed and can be done in cell, it places minimal demand on prison staff and helps those older prisoners who cannot physically reach the education department. We will provide advice and guidance, and support less confident individuals. The wide range of courses available means older prisoners can study subjects that interest and challenge them.

  • Aims

    Aim 1

    200 prisoners (over 50 yrs old) are given specialist advice and guidance regarding distance learning


    » Older prisoners are given the information they need to consider the courses that might best meet their educational needs.
    » Prison and education staff are given information to pass on to the older students in their care regarding course choice and progression.
    » Where appropriate, prison visits are undertaken to talk to prospective older learners, hand out advice materials and deal with questions face to face.

    200 older prisoners will have started studying a distance learning course. These courses will be otherwise unavailable in prison & will meet their individual learning aspirations.

    Aim 2

    200 older prisoners (50 years old and over) are provided with distance learning courses.


    » 200 older prisoners are given information about distance learning courses, are supported to apply for a particular course, and are funded to study.

    We will monitor the advice given to older prisoners, and prison staff, and the advice materials distributed. Prison staff will report greater confidence in supporting learners.

    Aim 3

    To track learning progress made by older prisoners and changes to their self-esteem and confidence.


    » We will issue monitoring forms which we will review and analyse. We look at motivations for study, career aspirations, and any concerns or worries.
    » We will review qualitative evidence, such as letters, feedback and comments, and monitor any further learning, volunteering or employment secured.

    PET monitoring forms will be issued and reviewed for changes to self-esteem and confidence. Prisoner letters will also be used anonymously to demonstrate commitment to learning.

  • Impact


    We will be able to support record numbers of prisoners, improving their self esteem, knowledge, resilience and skills. This will improve their relationships in prison, with fellow inmates and staff; but will also improve their relationships outside prison. Prisoners will use the skills they learn to cope with day to day challenges; but also to establish their own businesses or secure employment on release. The likelihood of reoffending will be greatly reduced, improving our communities for good.


    One risk is over-stretched prison staff unable to support their learners or answer basic queries. We are addressing this with our advice materials and increased number of advice visits. Another risk is managing demand - we will only be able to support as many prisoners as we raise funds for.
    We are addressing this by focusing on our fundraising strategy, managing funds carefully, and using our supplier discounts to maximise the use of funds raised. We must be careful to manage expectations.


    For those donors who would like to receive communications, we will send an update in twelve months time, summarising who has been supported, the courses they are studying, and whether they go on to any further learning. Interim updates and case studies will be uploaded on to our website.

  • Budget

    Budget - Project Cost: £85,000

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      Amount Heading Description
      £50,400 Courses The cost of 200 courses, based on average course cost of £252.
      £24,000 Advice Tailored advice, course administration and prison support for 200 older prisoners.
      £10,600 Overheads Contribution to PET overheads.
  • Background


    We work with nearly every prison in England & Wales, and we will support individuals aged 50 years and over from any of these establishments; this fund will ensure we can support as many as possible without relying on limited unrestricted funds. We define older prisoners as 50 years of age or above as research demonstrates that people in prison tend to be physiologically at least ten years older than their counterparts of the same biological age in the community.


    200 older prisoners will benefit, as they will be given courses, advice and guidance. Prison staff will benefit as they too will be given advice, helping them to support their learners. Indirectly the prison community will benefit from positively engaged peers who may become prison mentors. Prisoners' families will benefit as prisoners use their learning to reconnect with loved ones. Ultimately our communities will benefit; PET provision is shown by the Ministry of Justice to reduce reoffending.

  • Why Us?

    Why Us?

    We were established in 1989 to provide higher level learning opportunities to prisoners who had completed basic literacy and numeracy courses. In that first year we funded 12 courses; since then we have funded over 33,000. We have strong relationships with prison and education staff and have established, proven processes for reviewing courses, helping prospective students and providing support. We are experts in distance learning provision specifically, but also education in prisons generally.

    Read more about the Charity running this project.


    Suzan Nabbanja

    Suzan is our programme manager and has been at PET for 12 years. Her expertise is second to none and she has strong relationships with prison staff.

    John Lister

    John is our advice manager, and brings a wealth of experience in careers advice. He is able to answer questions about courses and career progression.

    Nicola Shoults

    Nicola is our financial controller and helps to ensure we are using funds effectively and in accordance with any restrictions applied.

    Rod Clark

    Rod is our Chief Executive and plays a key role in developing our relationships with prison governors, ensuring distance learning is supported.