Worshipful Company of Educators celebrate prison education staff

27 Jun 2018

Jo Sharp, a winner from HMP Isis

Prison teachers, staff and volunteers from around the UK have been celebrated by the Worshipful Company of Educators (WCE), whichdedicated their annual awards to those spreading knowledge in the secure estate.

The Inspirational Educators awards celebrate excellence and innovation at all levels of education and in all settings where learning takes place. The term ‘educator’ includes all those professionals who contribute to creating a stimulating, diverse and supportive environment in which people learn and enrich their lives.

Chairman of the Company, Dr Jennifer Somerville, says:

“The awards are not only a celebration of innovative and outstanding educational practice despite the difficulties of the prison environment but also a contribution to raising awareness of this often over-looked educational area and the transformative power of learning for people in prisons.”

The eight winners included three education staff who were nominated by PET: Jose Aguiar, Jo Sharp and Vilma Smith-Yates.

I am extremely pleased and grateful that WCE decided to put the spotlight on prison education - an often forgotten and ignored area. 

At HMP Pentonville, Jose has established a range of distance-learning and face-to-face programmes and events, initiating learning partnerships with two universities and with the London Shakespeare Workout company, which uses Shakespeare as an interactive tool to promote self-confidence and emotional intelligence.

Jose says: “I was thrilled to be a recipient of this prestigious award. I feel privileged to have been nominated by PET, an organisation that has been transforming prisoners’ lives through education for over 25 years. I am extremely pleased and grateful that WCE decided to put the spotlight on prison education - an often forgotten and ignored area. Also, I am honoured and proud to be representing HMP Pentonville in its 175th year.”

Jo Sharp is the Curriculum Team Leader at HMP Isis. As well as working with PET to introduce several ‘Learning Together’ courses in partnership with Goldsmith College University of London, Jo was involved in setting up a dedicated study room which enabled a range of additional learning opportunities, such as ‘learner voice’ groups and ‘life skills’ courses in preparation for release. She also arranged family learning days and graduation ceremonies for learners.

Jo says: “It was an amazing evening that I will never forget, it was such an honour. What a wonderful presentation. I met some amazing people and learned some fascinating new things, including the rituals of the Livery.”

Vilma Smith-Yates is a Personal and Social Development Tutor at HMP Wymott. In 2016 she was awarded the Outstanding Teacher of the Year at the Prisoner Learning Alliance awards, after being nominated by her prisoner learners. Among her most notable achievements is setting up Wymott’s entirely prisoner-run student council, which works to promote and improve learning within the prison and to act as peer mentors. It was singled out as an example of good practice in Wymott’s HM Inspection Report and used as a case study in an Ofsted Report of 2014.

Vilma says: “It was such an honour being a part of this award celebration and among so many inspirational individuals. This is one of the highlights of my professional career.”

Attending the awards, the winners joined in the ancient traditions of the City livery companies, including taking part in The Ceremony of the Loving Cup, which is traditional in all Livery Companies.

The other winners were Shirley Boslem at HMP Downview, Bill Davies at Leeds Beckett University, Alison Drew at HMP Send, Frances Findlater from the charity Bounce Back and Helen Nichols at Leeds Beckett University.

Do you know an inspiring educator? Serving prisoners can nominate for our own PLA awards until 16 July. Read here to find out more.