About us

Prisoners' Education Trust (PET) is a charity working across every prison in England and Wales to help achieve their potential through learning. 

PET was established in 1989, the brainchild of the two founders, David Burton and Vernon Cocking. They had become disillusioned with the narrow range of classes on offer to prisoners, and with colleagues considered how a broader education could be provided. And so Prisoners’ Education Trust was founded.

Initially working in just HMP Wandsworth, we now offer access to distance learning, arts and hobby materials, advice and guidance to prisoners across the country. Each year PET helps around 2,500 prisoners, and since our foundation in 1989 have helped thousands of men and women in prison and awarded 35,000 courses. Recent Ministry of Justice research shows that our distance learning provision reduces reoffending by over a quarter, when compared to a matched sample.

Distance learning works within the prison regime for many reasons. As a method of learning it can:

  • reach those prisoners who, for reasons of security, can’t attend classes.
  • enable us to offer prisoners a wide range of courses – currently over 200 vocational and academic courses.
  • offering continuity of study in spite of frequent transfers from prison to prison.
  • enabling prisoners to use their sentences constructively, especially during the long hours of lock down.

PET also promotes and argues the case for prisoner education, encouraging policy makers and parliamentarians to recognise the positive impact of tailored education provision in our prisons. We undertake research informed by prisoner learners, to improve policies and practice, and for the next three years also have the benefit of working with a PhD student from Royal Holloway University.

You can read our 2016 Annual Report and Accounts here.

You can read our entry on the Charity Commission website (search for charity number 1084718) and Companies House website.

You can listen to our history here.