Prison staff

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PET wouldn’t be able to transform lives without the support of people who work in prisons: the officers and education staff who prepare learners to study at a higher level, support the application process, and help people through courses.

On this page you’ll find an overview of how we work in prisons and answers to some of our frequently asked questions – more detailed information can be found in the Login area.

Distance learning gives people in prison the chance to take courses in levels and subjects that might otherwise not be available – studying at their own pace, and often in their own cell.

For the learner, it’s a chance to gain meaningful, higher-level qualifications in subjects that interest them. For the prison, it’s a way to offer a wider variety of courses without the cost of running whole classes. The cost to the prison is very low – we ask for a contribution of 10% per course, equalling on average £30.

The returns on this investment are significant. Research by the Ministry of Justice shows that PET  learners are less likely to reoffend and more likely to find work after release. Distance learning can have a positive impact on wellbeing and self-esteem, can help build stronger connections between prisoners and their families, and can help create a more positive prison culture.

Read more about our impact

We offer around 250 different courses not usually available through prison education departments. A downloadable curriculum and a searchable online version can be found here. 

Before applying, learners should meet the following criteria:

  • Be resident in a prison in England or Wales
  • Have six months or more left to serve on their sentence
  • Have gained Level 2 English and/or Maths, or the equivalent
  • Not be studying another PET course at the same time

Under prison rules, people who have committed certain offences cannot complete certain courses.

A full list can be found in the staff login area

If the applicant matches our criteria, PET looks to fund those who can show:

  • Prior educational participation and achievement
  • Commitment to completing their chosen course
  • A clear idea of how the course will benefit them

Every application must be endorsed by a prison staff member, who should confirm that:

  • The applicant is at the right level to complete the course
  • The prison is able to support the learner with the course

Please note: PET aims to fund everyone who meets our criteria. However, due to funding restrictions we occasionally have to turn suitable people down. We appreciate this will cause disappointment for both staff and students, and we will endeavour to explain our decision fully and to suggest applying again in the future, where appropriate.

You can find our application forms, curriculum and other resources to support your work in the staff login area.

Each prison should have a nominated point of contact, who helps support prisoners’ applications to PET. If you do not have a point of contact, or wish to inform us of a change in staffing, please get in touch with the Access to Learning team.

Our login area contains resources to help you support learners through the whole journey – from applying for distance learning to completing their course. Our friendly, expert teams in London and Cardiff are also available should you need additional help and advice.

We welcome applications from serving prisoners we have previously funded, as long as they have completed their previous course. Our ‘Continue with Education’ section has more information about carrying on with education in the community – from distance learning courses to university study.

Are you passionate about delivering education that changes lives? Do you want to share your ideas and help to influence change? We are looking for prison education staff to join the Prisoner Learning Alliance, a network of organisations and individuals using its collective voice to improve prison education.

Sign up here

If you want to get in touch about a specific learner, course or another matter, you can email our Access to Learning team.

Prison Educator of the Year: His story

Stephen Rogers teaches Functional Skills English teacher at high-security prison HMP Whitemoor. This month, he will receive the first Outstanding Prison Educator award from the Worshipful Company of Educators, having been named the ‘winner of winners’ out of last years’ Prisoner Learning Alliance award recipients. Here he tells his story.

Read More

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