Offenders’ experiences of learning - new NIACE publication Wednesday, October 17, 2012 - 14:55
The learning experiences of seven people during their custodial or community sentence are told in a new publication - Our Time to Learn: Real stories about offender learning - published by NIACE on Wednesday 17 October 2012.
Our Time to Learn illustrates how the learning journeys of Helen, Frank, Sophie, Paul, Billy, Stephen and Dell have transformed their lives, giving them the opportunity to tell their own stories. Their stories also show the many public, as well as private, benefits to improving, increasing and extending opportunities for adults to learn throughout their lives.
"By the end of the course I had a feeling of, ‘yes I am me and I can do anything. I cannot begin to tell you what it has done for me. I am a different person."
"I realised then I had to make a change somehow; I had had enough of letting people down, smoking drugs, going in and out of courts and prisons. Education has given me choices and the ability to take control of my life instead of being constantly in custody wondering how long the next sentence would be or how long before I see my children again."
I am proof that anything can happen as long as you believe in yourself. Don't let negativity hold you back, transform your life into something positive through education
"My confidence soared and with it so did my self-worth. My behaviour calmed down and my attitude settled. I am proof that anything can happen as long as you believe in yourself. Don't let negativity hold you back, transform your life into something positive through education."
"The experience has helped me personally; I have realised that I do have shortcomings that need sorting and that you are never too old to learn. But just as important is the role I can play in helping others. There is no greater joy than helping someone to read and write."
"It's a life saver, a reason to prove to myself that I am more than just a prisoner. I know the power of prison education; my academic endeavours, a long slow trek that started in December 1988, are not over yet. I continue to learn something new each day."
"Irrespective of how dark and tough and difficult the future seems, to be in education offers you a path to a better and sometimes unthought-of future. With help you can explore your potential if you believe in your ability."
"Use your time inside to bring out your talents, to improve what skills you have or to learn new ones. It will be a bonus for you when you get back out...set yourself a goal, a realistic one and use your time inside to better yourself."
The stories bring to light the importance of listening to learners to improve the quality of offender learning.
Ama Dixon, Project Officer at NIACE, said:
"Learning can play a vital role in improving an individual's life: personally in terms of enhanced health and well-being; socially in terms of better knowledge and understanding; and economically in terms of improved employability skills. These stories document the positive impact learning has had on individuals who took advantage of learning opportunities either whilst in prison or through accessing learning for offenders in the community."
"With support from dedicated offender learning staff many individuals have changed their lives for the better. Peer support is also a common theme throughout the stories; all of the learners supported other prisoners with their education or, in the case of Helen, other learners in the community. This demonstrates the effectiveness of programmes which use peer mentors to engage and support learners. The stories bring to light the importance of listening to learners to improve the quality of offender learning. We hope they will help policy-makers and learning providers to gain a better understanding of the needs and experiences of individuals who take up learning in prisons or offender learning in the community."