NOMS Rehabilitative Cultures Project

The Project

In 2014-15, Prisoners’ Education Trust developed a project to support the development of Learner Voice initiatives in eight prisons and strengthen their Learning Cultures. Built upon the guidelines published in the toolkit, Involve, Improve, Inspire, the project worked closely with each prison to understand their specific needs and unique visions. Workshops were written and delivered by Jose Aguiar, an independent Learner Voice consultant.

The prisons developed a range of initiatives throughout the project. These included:

 - Prisoner Information Desks,
 - A prison wide newsletter,
 - Skills Champions/Pathways Reps – prisoner representative roles,
 - Learner Councils.

The Research

We wanted to explore the impact that these Learner Voice activities had on the Rehabilitative Culture of the prisons. We worked with Dr. Katherine Auty from the University of Cambridge to design and implement an extensive research framework.

We evaluated the project through a combination of observations, interviews and evaluation forms.

We also designed a survey to measure prison-wide Learning Culture. This was defined as a culture that was:

  • Empowering
  • Inclusive
  • Aspirational
  • Engaging/relevant
  • Safe

Surveys were distributed to prisoners and staff randomly around the prison before and after the Learner Voice intervention to track changes in scores.

The Findings

The intervention led to improvements in a number of ways:

  • Provided a catalyst and space for discussion
  • External scrutiny provided motivation
  • Challenged individuals to aim higher and do more

The results for the eight prison sites fit into three broad clusters:

  • 1) Visionaries and Enthusiasts: where quantitative and qualitative evidence demonstrated an increase in learning culture
  • 2) Mainstream adopters: where some progress had been made but was not statistically significant
  • 3) Resisters: where evidence suggested that little to no progress had been made

The enabling characteristics which determined whether a site was in cluster 1, 2 or 3 were:

  • Levels of staff involvement and engagement
  • Levels of prisoner involvement and engagement
  • Effectiveness of communication strategies


The full report 

The executive summary

For further information, contact Morwenna Bennallick.