June Update from Nina Champion

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Hello from

Nina Champion!

Hello! As some of you who were at the EPEA conference in Antwerp last year may know, I was elected as the representative for the Western Region which includes: England, Ireland, Northern Ireland, Wales, Scotland, Belgium, France and the Netherlands.  I am sorry it has taken so long to send out my first newsletter, due to a family bereavement.  I look forward to getting to know you all and finding out what is happening outside of England, where I work for the charity Prisoners’ Education Trust. (I am the blonde woman with glasses in the photo below!)

Member Survey

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In order to get to know you better, I would be very grateful if you could please complete this short ten question member survey by 30th June. The EPEA is a great way to share good practice, research, events, news and views on prison education. We want to know what you are working on so we can share it with others. We also want to find out what you want from being a member of the EPEA so we can improve our services. Filling in this survey, will really help us. Thank you in advance!


Updates from the Western Region

If you have any other updates from your country, please let me know using the member survey above and I will include them in future  –  thank you!

England:  Prison Education has been at the top of the agenda in England, with the Prime Minister and even the Queen talking about it! The Justice Secretary commissioned head teacher Dame Coates to conduct a review into prison education and a report was published a few weeks ago. The report made wide ranging and radical recommendations to improve learning in custody which the government have accepted. An analysis of the reforms can be found here. An article I wrote on them can be found here. A rapid review of international evidence about the link between prison education and reducing re-offending can be found here. Prison Education was also the theme of the latest edition of the Prison Service Journal.

Scotland:  In the same week as England launched their vision for prison education, the Scottish Prison Service announced their new strategy too . I was lucky enough to be hosted by EPEA member, James King, Head of Offender Learning in Scotland, so I could attend the launch in HMP Shotts prison. The launch event was very emotional with several learners speaking about their own experiences. Some had been studying graphic design and others had left prison and now formed their own community theatre charity called ‘Street Cones’. My comparison between the Scottish and English strategies can be found here.

Ireland: On Easter Monday, April 24, 1916, a group of Irish nationalists proclaimed the establishment of the Irish Republic and staged a rebellion against the British government in Ireland. These events were celebrated both nationally and specifically across the 14 Irish prisons as Project 16, and was a showcase of the arts, crafts, literature, history and drama. The launch of the exhibition was opened by President of Ireland, Michael D Higgins and Mrs Sabina Higgins on June 2nd in Mountjoy West Prison Complex. The president said

“Most important about all this impressive work, is that you, as students in prison education facilities, have made the positive decision to undertake challenging study, and to bring forward original and creative projects. You have produced work of substance and value – not just value to yourselves and the wider prison community, but to our society at large. As President of Ireland, I want to express my appreciation to you for producing such work and my admiration for the quality of what you have achieved”.

The event was a great opportunity to feature the positive work going on across the prison sector in Ireland and also gave the students in prison education centres an opportunity to be a part of the national commemorations. The president’s speech can be found here. Information about the Irish Prison Education Association can be found here.

Wales: The Governor in waiting for new prison being built in Wrexham, North Wales (HMP Berwyn) was announced as former Marine Russell Trent. Despite headlines criticising his plans to call cells ‘rooms’ and to have in-cell telephones, the Justice Secretary has publically supported his new approach in a speech to all Governors. The prison is due to open in early 2017 and bids for providing the education in the prison are due to be submitted by the autumn. A new cluster Governor for Wales has been announced as Kenny Brown, who will be speaking at the PLA conference at Cardiff Metropolitan University in September. A new project run by Prisoners’ Education Trust in the Welsh prisons developing learning communities and supporting distance learners with peer support and study skills is underway, collaborating with the welsh prison staff and other organisations such as Open University Cymru, St. Giles Cymru and Cardiff Metropolitan University.

Belgium: Update on the FORINER-project.  An online survey was distributed to gain an overview of the educational opportunities for foreign national prisoners across European prisons. Based on the results of the online survey, 5 learning practices across Europe are selected and investigated more in depth. The results will be presented in a report available after summer. They are now looking for partners who will be involved in pilot projects to provide foreign national prisoners in EU prisons with access to education provided by their home country. All interested partners will be brought together at the FORINER conference from 12 till 14th of October 2016 in London.  You can subscribe by sending an e-mail to foriner@vocvo.be.

Update on Klasbak branch: Klasbak vzw was officially established as a local branch of EPEA in November 2015 and brings together all those people who are interested in learning and (ex-) prisoners in Flanders (the Northern part of Belgium). Recently, a policy plan for 2016-2019 was finished. This policy plan has been developed with the input of over 50 participants, from different organisations and different fields.

Their vision is “Society considers prisoners as full members of society and detention as a chance. Detention takes place within a challenging environment that encompasses an innovative and sustained learning environment wherein the focus lies on detained persons.”

France: Please see here for an interesting EPALE blog by Alexia Samuel on progress being made in France by three ministers to improve prison education.

Update on EPEA French Branch:  The branch just received help from the French agency Erasmus+ France / Education Formation to participate to the Erasmus contact seminar + for Adult Education “Lifelong Learning in Prisons” Oulu, Finland 4-7 October 2016 and we hope that Joel Quedec, liaison person EPEA and teacher at Melun prison, should be present if the application is successful.  We should be able to revive the French branch of the EPEA. The Chair is Marc Desjacques Deputy of U.P.R de Paris prison educational unit of Ile de France.

Netherlands: The Dutch Ministry of Justice recently launched Social Impact Bond: “Werk na Detentie” (Work after detention) making use of a new innovative financing-instrument: a Social Impact Bond (SIB). The bond is a collaboration of many partners all working on finding prisoners a real job after release from prison. To read more in Dutch see here. Through google translate in English see here.  A former Dutch prison was recently used for two theatre plays, one in which (male only) public is imprisoned during the play and experienced directly what life in prison is about. Both plays ‘Straffe bak’ and ‘Laat maar zitten’ were realised with actors, ex-prisoners and prison staff.  The Dutch Prison Service is actively investing and investigating possibilities of re-integration through sports. The longterm goal is to find paid & volunteer jobs in sports facilities and clubs. Agreements with many parties involved have already lead to successful re-integration. (See below about sports focus for this year’s International Day of Education in Prison). A Dutch report has been published of research done about the living environment in prisons based on the principle ideas: safety, self-reliance, humanitarian and a sound re-integration into society. The results of the research will help the Dutch Government to improve the detention climate for the better.

Up  Update on Dutch EPEA branch (EPEA-NL): The branch has  finally found a new chair! Veronique Achoui is following Annet Bakker, who as you know became the chair of EPEA Europe. Veronique is a very enthousiastic person with lots of ideas and a warm prison education heart!

UNESCO Chair in Applied Research for Education in Prison

UNESCO have announced they are going to produce fact sheets on prison education in fifty countries. They have asked the EPEA to assist them. By completing the EPEA member survey discussed above you will be assisting us in contributing to this UNESCO research. If you want to find out more, please see their latest newsletter here or their website here. 

International Day of Education in Prison – focus on sports in prison

The EPEA set up the International day of Education in Prison on 13th October, the anniversary of the Council of Europe recommendations for prison education. Each year we will focus on a different recommendation. Being Olympic year, we have chosen recommendation 11 ‘Physical education and sports for prisoners should be emphasised and encouraged‘. If you have any examples of using sports-based learning in your prison, please let me know so we can include it in the EPEA magazine.


Theory of Change for Prison Education

On 10 June I launched a new report:  What is prison education for? A Theory of Change exploring the value of learning in prison. I will be running a webinar on this subject for EPEA members. Please let me know if you are interested in this webinar, especially if you have done anything similar in your country.

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Events in the Western Region

Criminal research: Writing wrongs in the creative arts in prisons – 22 June – Bath Spa University

Realising Restorative Justice: Human Rights and Personal Realities, 9th International Conference of the EFRJ – 22 to 24 June, Law School of Leiden University, The Hague

Prison education – aspirational and engaging education for all – 8 July, UCL Institute of Education (Annet Baker, Chair of EPEA and Nina Champion, Western Region Rep for EPEA both speaking at this event)

Young People and the Justice System – Early Intervention, Education and Reducing Reoffending – Policy UK Forum – 13 September, Central London

Prisoner Learning Alliance conference – 16 September, Cardiff Metropolitan University, Wales

FORINER conference from 12 till 14th of October 2016 in London.

If you have any questions, comments, reports or events, please do not hesitate to contact me.

Best wishes. I look forward to hearing from you!

Nina Champion

Western Region Representative, EPEA