2020’s most popular distance learning courses in prison

Home > 2020’s most popular distance learning courses in prison

25 February 2021

Construction workers

2020 was a particularly tough year for people in prison: locked up for over 23 hours a day with no visits, education classes suspended, and limited activities to do in their cells.

Despite this, Prisoners’ Education Trust was able to fund just over 1000 people to take distance learning courses last year, enabling them to work towards their dream of a better life.

In total, we funded 162 different courses in 2020 – here we’ll share the top ten and hear from some of our learners about the impact studying has made on them.

Discover all the courses we offer here

1. Open University People, Work & Society Access Module (2019: 1st) – 52 learners

Topping the list for the third year in a row is the Open University’s Access Module, ‘People, Work and Society’. One of three we offer, Access courses are designed to provide the perfect pathway to degree-level study. Always a popular choice, these courses will introduce you to higher level learning, give you a taste of a subject area and provide an opportunity to develop your study skills.

2. Business Start-up (2019: 3rd)47 learners

Moving up from 4th place in 2018 and 3rd the following year, this increasingly popular course guides you through the process of setting up your own business. Learners will look at legal and financial issues, marketing and sales, and customer service.

3. Certificate in Understanding Substance Misuse (2019: 7th)38 learners

This course helps learners to develop their understanding of issues around and possible responses to alcohol and drug misuse.

Comprised of three units, it covers topics including how to recognise the signs of substance misuse and act upon immediate risks of danger, as well as a unit specifically on alcohol and drug use among young people.

4. Open University Science, Technology and Maths Access module (2019: 2nd)33 learners

Another Access module provided by the Open University, this wide-ranging course looks at biology, ecology, design, engineering and computing.

Natalie, 39, told us the course had not only helped her with her job as a maths mentor, but with her own self-belief too:

The reason I decided to do this course was to challenge my insecurities surrounding my confidence in my own abilities. Over the time I’ve been studying for this module, not only has my confidence improved, but my ability to focus on what I’m doing, my motivation to want to learn and my studying techniques as well.

5. NEBOSH National Certificate in Construction Health and Safety (Level 3) (2019: 58th)32 learners

National Examination Board in Occupational Safety and Health (NEBOSH) courses proved exceptionally popular in 2020 with three making it into the top ten. Well established as a leading health and safety qualification for the construction industry, they are in great demand across a range of jobs.

Adam, who successfully completed the course in October 2020, wrote:

The NEBOSH Level 3 Certificate has already gifted me with so much wellbeing and optimism. A real chance to turn a negative time in my life into positivity, self-worth and pride.

6. NEBOSH Award in Health and Safety at Work (Level 2) (2019: 10th) 31 learners

One place and one academic level below the National Certificate in Construction Health and Safety, this introductory course is aimed at anyone who wants a basic understanding of the principles of health and safety at work.

7. Gym Instructing – Passport to Level 2 Certificate (2019: 4th) 30 learners

Take the first step towards becoming a personal trainer with this Gym Instructing course. It covers all the bases of working in the industry, including lifestyle management and health awareness, anatomy and physiology, and providing a positive customer experience. You will also learn how to create and deliver a gym-based lesson plan.

9=. NEBOSH National General Certificate in Occupational Health and Safety (2019:16th)28 learners

Relevant to all workplaces, this course is perfect for those embarking on a health and safety career, as Matthew demonstrates:

PET funding enabled me to pass my NEBOSH General Certificate which allowed me to get a full time job on day release as a Health and Safety Officer in the rail industry. I am now doing my fire safety certificate again with PET funding which opens up other opportunities.

9=. Book-keeping (2019: 13th)28 learners

The perfect starter in the field of finance, this course covers all the core elements of book-keeping – ensuring you have the knowledge you need to keep on top of your business’ finances or simply to manage your money more effectively.

10. Creative Writing (2019: 5th) 25 learners

As well as covering the techniques used in fiction writing, in this wide-ranging course you will have a go at writing non-fiction material, such as magazine articles and reviews. You will also explore autobiography, short stories, playwriting and poetry too.

Writing can be a fantastic boost for mental wellbeing and outlet for creative expression, something Michael found when he took the course during lockdown:

It is helping me to cope with being locked up for 23 hours a day. Both with my mental health and giving me a positive way to use my time.

Find out more about all the courses PET offers here – including course descriptions, entry requirements, and what sort of tutor support is available.

Learner names have been changed.

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