PLA Awards 2016: Nominations open

31 May 2016

“In these depressingly austere times; in a prison system riven with difficulties, he remains a beacon of light and hope”.

These were the words of a prisoner learner last year who nominated Officer Clive Vincent at HMP Erlestoke for Prisoner Learning Alliance (PLA) award. The nomination was successful, and Officer Vincent was named an “outstanding officer or instructor” for the support he gave to prisoners completing distance-learning courses.

After receiving his award at the annual PLA conference last year, Officer Vincent said “I was humbled with the comments made. Like many other prison officers, I work hard to try to encourage change in the people that we work with. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't, but we keep on trying. This is not always recognised. So days like today help.”

The PLA will be running the awards at its Annual Conference, held on Friday, 16th September in Cardiff. Register your place here.

The awards are unique in that we only collect nominations from those who are currently in custody. This year, we also invite nominations for the young people’s estate.

To download a flyer click here.

The four categories are:

1. Outstanding teacher or education staff
2. Outstanding officer or instructor
3. Outstanding peer mentor, learning champion or student council rep
4. Outstanding individual e.g. governor, librarian, volunteer, charity worker, careers advisor

Awards will be presented at the conference. Staff winners will receive a certificate and gift bag including items made by prisoners. Prisoner winners will receive a certificate and a book of their choice. Everyone nominated will also receive a certificate.

Last year’s winners

Last year winners included a teacher who “takes the time to get to know her students” and “makes Maths fun”. Two teachers at HMP Low Newton were nominated by a prisoner with dyslexia who came into custody not able to read or write. Despite confessing to initially being “a nightmare” in class, she said the teachers “would not let me fail”.

After successfully completing some courses and becoming a mentor she said: “They are special tutors that stand out from the rest. They go out of their way to make you want to come to education to learn and I never thought I would ever say that, so that is the reason they deserve to be nominated for what they do.”

In the peer mentor category last year, one winner was able to be escorted from prison to collect his award, while his family watched from the audience. The two learners who nominated him said he went “way beyond his remit...he spends time motivating people who are struggling through a lack of support from other sources,” they told us.

Another prisoner winner was nominated after a fellow prisoner read his article: ‘Accepting me for who I am. The experiences of a gay man in the Scottish prison system’ in Inside Time. The nominating prisoner said: “I know it isn’t learning like numbers and spelling, but I have learned a lot from him and surely getting people to talk in depth about a taboo subject is a good thing”.

The definition of ‘learning’ is interpreted by the PLA in its broadest sense. We particularly welcome nominations for Governors who are invested in education, and don’t forget librarians, volunteers, charity workers, managers, careers advisors, instructors and others too.

How to nominate

Please write to Nina Champion at FREEPOST: PRISONERS EDUCATION TRUST or email The letter (maximum 1 A4 side per nomination) should provide:

• Name, prison and prison number
• Name of the person being nominated
• Their job title
• The category they are being nominated in
• The reason for the nomination

We invite those nominating to think of specific examples of how they have helped or inspired, how they have promoted learning in prison and how they have ‘gone the extra mile’ to help people succeed. These awards are an opportunity to thank those who support and promote learning in prison establishment, whatever their role and wherever they are based. We look forward to receiving all your nominations.

Your chance to say thank you

These awards are an opportunity to thank those who ‘go the extra mile’ to support and promote learning in you establishment, whatever their role and wherever they are based in the prison. We look forward to receiving your nominations.

Registration for the PLA’s Annual Conference is now open! Click here to book your place. To download a flyer for the awards click here.

The PLA held its 14th meeting on 11 May. The minutes are available here