X-factor's Sam Bailey to host PLA awards

31 May 2017

X-factor winner Sam Bailey will draw on her own experience as a prison officer when she presents this year’s Prisoner Learning Alliance (PLA) awards in Leicester in September. (Register here)

The awards, which recognise the exceptional people who support and inspire learning within prisons, are unique in that all nominations come from serving prisoners.  

Bailey was working as a prison officer at HMP Gartree in Leicestershire at the time she won the X-factor singing final in 2013.

She says:

“The officers and teachers and others recognised by the PLA awards make a huge difference to the prison system. With their help people in prison have a greater chance of building a life once released. As a former prison officer, I am still very passionate about the power of education and the need to reform prisoners, and am delighted to be presenting the PLA awards.  It’s great to know that people who do these difficult and often demanding jobs are being recognised.”

Nominations are now open for the awards, and the PLA welcomes nominations from across the UK prison estate.

Prisoners can nominate in five categories:

  • Teacher or education staff (adult estate)
  • Teacher or education staff (young people’s estate)
  • Officer or instructor
  • Peer mentor, supporter, learning champion or student council rep
  • Other: e.g: Governor, librarian, volunteer, charity worker or careers adviser 

Last year, the PLA received over 200 nomination letters from people in custody. Winners included Aleta Blackall, who was recognised as an ‘Outstanding Teacher’ for her work at HMP Ford, where she specialises in basic literacy and works a great deal with gypsy and traveller prisoners. 

Aleta said:

“I’ve been teaching prison education for 13 years, and after all this time I still get a lump in my throat when a non-reader reads their first book or someone finally writes their name after struggling to spell it.

“These men, young and old, start in class feeling they are there under duress, not engaging. Then, slowly, they become these wonderful, confident learners who engage and achieve, and you know that this person will have a better future upon release.”

Ian Rampton, who runs a soap-making course alongside other lessons, was nominated by his students at Eastwood Park's women prison. The nomination letter read: 

"I feel he has really helped build my self confidence and really lifted my mood as he consistently praises you, always encourages you and believes in you no matter what.

"Thanks to Ian I now know I can do things and that I am not worthless. I now have plans for the future when I leave prison. I never thought I would look at setting up my own business but I'm really looking forward to it."

Prisoners who wish to nominate in any of the categories should write to Nina Champion at FREEPOST: PRISONERS EDUCATION TRUST. In their letter (maximum 1 A4 side per nomination), they should give:

  • Name, establishment and prison number
  • Name and job title of the person they are nominating
  • Reasons for nominating them, including specific examples of how they have been helpful or inspired, how they have promoted learning in your prison and how they have ‘gone the extra mile’ to help people others achieve.

Download an awards flyer 


The deadline for nominations is 14 July.

The PLA awards will be held as part of the alliance’s annual conference on Thursday 14 September at De Montfort University, Leicester. 

Register for the conference



The Prisoner Learning Alliance was formed in 2012 by the charity Prisoners’ Education Trust (PET) to provide expertise and vision to inform future priorities, policies and practices relating to prison education, learning and skills. It now brings together 23 expert organisations who work to champion learning for people in prison. For the full list of members see here.