Conference lectures 2015


The PLA's second annual conference included several speeches, lectures and discussions at Leeds Beckett university. The event began with an exclusive video message from the Justice Secretary, Michael Gove and was followed by the keynote address from Nick Hardwick, Chief Inspector of Prisons.

Justice Secretary, Michael Gove, video message to PLA conference

‘Aspirational Prison’, Nick Hardwick's speech

Delegates then heard from staff at HMP Hollesley Bay, about how they obtained an 'Outstanding' Ofsted grade. Irina Hodkinson, Justice Division, Regional Manager , and Louise Chapman, Education Manager, (People Plus) spoke how about how they had worked with the prison Governor, senior management team and staff to ensure learning and skills was inclusive across the prison. Expanding on Nick Hardwick's argument about the importance of a 'Whole prison approach' to developing an aspirational, learning-focused prison, Chapman said this strong leadership, and partnership with local agencies helped to foster a high standard of behaviour expected of prisoners. HMP Hollesley Bay presentation.

Hodkinson said the prison also has a strong focus on developing prisoners' employability skills, offering classes on setting up businesses, practical work experience in the community and visits from local employers. The presentation ended with feedback from Ofsted: 'Learners are confident, well prepared and in a strong position to take control of their lives'.

Helen Nichols and Dr. Bill Davies, from Leeds Beckett University, who set up the PRisON research network and kindly facilitated the event with the PLA, gave a joint lecture on ‘Unlocking the Outcomes of Learning in Prison’. PRisON research network presentation.

In the afternoon, Charlie Weinburg, Executive Director, Safe Ground, discussed how the charity developed their Model of Change and led an interactive session with the audience to initiate a Theory of Change for the sector. Jess Mullen and Nina Champion discussed this further and asked the critical question – what is prison education for?

Safe Ground presentation

Nina Champion presentation

CLINKS presentation

The day closed with a ‘Wordle’ highlighting key responses from our audience, and ‘confidence’ came out as the chief benefit of delivering prison education.

The Wordle was also discussed by a group of ex-prisoner learners, in the final session "'in conversation with the experts" chaired by Eric Allison, The Guardian including audience Q&A. In their feedback about the event, delegates said this final session was the most powerful as each panellist talked about their respective experiences of learning in prison. The discussion kicked off, with Eric Allison asking if any words were missing.

Eric felt 'freedom' was key, and freedom of the mind as he said "education opened up my mind", while PET alumnus Nathan said 'awareness' is crucial for him, as prisoners need to have greater awareness of what’s possible and the self-belief to work towards education and a new future. Nathan, who is now a manager for Rapt, said that he had studied a range of courses in prison and beyond, throughout his career that gaining high level qualifications has changed his life, so he advocate for meaningful courses in prison as education 'costs peanuts compared to a life of crime'. Read Nathan's story.

Karen, who now works in East Sutton Park after she left the prison, talked about the importance of empowering individuals to change themselves. She also talked about 'family' as a missing word and said how in women's prisons in particular, the ability to connect with family is vital to a person's rehabilitation. Finally Karen said: "Education needs to be relevant to each individual – not a blanket approach. We need to take time, one to one, to understand each person."