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Project information

Great Expectations: education for young prisoners

Young people in prison have limited access to higher level educational opportunities. We will provide distance learning courses, advice and guidance to young people 26 years old and under. We will also promote partnerships between prisons and universities, encouraging young people to participate.

December 2017 - December 2018

Charity information: Prisoners Education Trust

Prisoners Education Trust logo
  • Need


    Young people (u26) in prison are restricted in their educational opportunities, particularly at higher levels (GCSEs and upwards). Though some compulsory education exists, it focuses on a narrow curriculum with little opportunity for progression. For young people who have longer sentences there are few courses to keep them engaged. One young person said “During my sentence I need to try and advance my learning at the right level and attempt to make something positive of my sentence.”


    We will provide distance learning courses, advice and guidance to young people in prison, enabling them the opportunity to works towards a career goal or personal aspiration such as making their family proud of them. We will also build our Prison University Partnerships in Learning (PUPiL) network, supporting universities who wish to teach courses in prison. This encourages young people to consider their educational progression through distance learning and after their prison sentence ends.

  • Aims

    Aim 1

    To provide advice and guidance to young people by letter and a minimum of 6 prison visits.


    » We will visit 6 prisons to advise prospective younger learners, and provide them with advice materials, including our Distance Learning Curriculum.
    » Prison and education staff are given information and training to support young people regarding course choice and progression.

    What success will look like

    Prisoners will be equipped to decide the most appropriate course or progression route which best meets their aspirations and goals.

    Aim 2

    To provide distance learning courses to 50 young learners aged under 26 in secure establishments.


    » Ensured appropriate courses are supplied to prisoners in a timely fashion and they are supported as they begin this mode of study.
    » Undertake regular monitoring and correspondence with prisoners and prison staff to ensure effectiveness and to manage any issues which may arise.
    » Maintain relationships with prisoners as they finish courses, and help them undertake further courses.
    » Provide information regarding university partnerships in their prison, university options on release and PET’s alumni network.

    What success will look like

    50 young people have taken up distance learning and are successfully studying their courses.

    Aim 3

    Build PUPiL resources including online information and best practice approaches with young people.


    » Develop a web resource which holds information regarding partnerships, challenges to consider and best practice approaches.
    » Host a one day event bringing partnerships together to share experiences.
    » Undertake monthly communication with growing network, sharing updates, resources and information.

    What success will look like

    Online resources and information about new and existing partnerships are consulted regularly by PUPiL members.

    Aim 4

    Support PUPiL partnerships to establish in institutions holding young people, visiting at least 6.


    » Through the PUPiL resources and network, identify potential partners and/or new partnerships about to launch.
    » Facilitate contact between potential prison and university partners, and ensure new partnerships are captured on PUPiL interactive map.
    » Encourage appropriate promotion and student recruitment in prison.
    » Visit at least 6 partnerships to collect and collate experiences and best practice.

    What success will look like

    Information and approaches from new and existing partnerships are collated and share online as case studies.

    Aim 5

    Undertake monitoring and evaluation to influence PET’s process and prison university partnerships.


    » Send monitoring forms to all young distance learners to obtain feedback regarding self-confidence, long term goals and the PET process.
    » Send monitoring forms to prison staff to ensure prisoner transfers are captured where possible.
    » Collate evaluation activity undertaken by prison university partnerships to share via our online resource to inform and influence new initiatives.

    What success will look like

    Feedback from distance learners in prison has informed PET provision, influencing our curriculum and processes. PUPiL is recognised network for partnerships.

  • Impact


    Distance learning is proven by the Ministry of Justice to reduce reoffending. Ultimately our provision will ensure individuals are less likely to reoffend on release, reducing the victims and costs of crime and improving communities. Success will be engaged prisoners, with more self-confidence participating positively in the prison regime, and who feel able to go on to further learning, whether distance learning, a prison/university partnership in prison, or further study on release.


    Reduced prison staff numbers can result in diminished knowledge of distance learning. We will address this with our advice provision and regular visits. Regular transfers of young people are also an issue. Our relationships with prison staff will help monitor this and we will use ‘keep in touch’ tools (e.g. postcards). A risk is safeguarding young people (both prisoners and university students). The Board has recently updated safeguarding policies, and will appoint a safeguarding lead.


    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, along with updates regarding PUPiL and new partnerships.

  • Budget

    Budget - Project Cost: £43,040

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      Amount Heading Description
      £21,250 Distance Learning Course Courses, advice and guidance for 50 young people at an average cost of £425 per student.
      £1,740 Advice visits Six advice visits to establishments holding young people.
      £9,360 Coordination Officer Three days a month of the Senior Policy and Research Officer for a twelve month period.
      £1,200 PUPiL visits Travel for one visit a month to a prison university partnership.
      £5,990 PUPiL Conference One day event bringing together prison unversity partnerships and interested parties.
      £3,500 Website development Development of PUPiL online resources and communications.
  • Background


    PET works with all prisons across England and Wales, and we will work with a young person wherever they are. The prison population has grown significantly but education has dwindled; with a population of over 86,000, only 300 people completed level three qualifications in 2015/16. A significant proportion of young people in the prison system were in care; they make up nearly two-fifths of children insecure training centres and young offender institutions. Education is an essential opportunity.


    This project will benefit:
    - Young people in prison who benefit from education opportunities which would otherwise be unavailable.
    - Prison staff who benefit from an engaged students and advice from our expert team.
    - Young prisoners’ families feel proud that their loved ones are doing something positive and constructive.
    - Universities are able to address their widening access agendas and university students meet individuals from diverse backgrounds building their knowledge and empathy.

  • Why Us?

    Why Us?

    PET is an expert in distance learning provision, with 28 years experience in assessing the best courses for young people, and providing advice and guidance. Over the past two years we have undertaken a youth policy project, developing our understanding of education provision for young people, and have an in-depth knowledge of whether the gaps are. Our PUPiL network is possible because we are an independent voice and successfully bring different educational establishments and prisons together.

    Read more about the Charity running this project.


    Rod Clark

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

    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.

    Morwenna Bennallick

    Senior Research & Policy Officer leading prison/university work. and a PhD student at Royal Holloway exploring impact of distance learning in prison.