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MK College Group delivers sparkling GCSE results at one of the country’s most secure prisons

Prisoners at the high security Frankland Prison in County Durham, have achieved 100% pass rate in GCSE English. The classes were run by teachers from Milton Keynes College Group. It’s the first time the exam course has ever been offered at a high security establishment.

78% achieved grade C (5) and above, almost three times as many as in FE Colleges around the country. What’s more, the students managed their success with just one year of study, one three-and-a-half-hour session a week and no internet access.

Jo Watmore is Education Manager at HMP Frankland, and she says, “We had eight prisoners in the main part of the prison and eight were vulnerable prisoners, so we had to run two cohorts. They had to apply, have an interview and take a skills test before they could enrol. We also had to ask the prison service not to transfer them elsewhere in the high security estate for a year, so their work wasn’t interrupted half way through. Most are serving long or full life sentences but now they can progress to be mentors, learning assistants or even move on to a degree – it’s all about enabling a career in custody.”

This month, thirty prisoners are enrolled on GCSE courses in English and now maths.

“People often ask me what’s the point of giving classes to people who are not going to be released for years, if at all, but I think their punishment is being locked up and this is about providing meaningful, purposeful activity for some of the hardest to reach people in society to give them a chance to progress and develop themselves. Education is a way to help them change their mindset and change the way they view themselves and society, and after all, the majority do get out eventually and have to rejoin the community. Studies have shown education helps prisoners become more settled, less aggressive and even less likely to self-harm.”

One student was doing his GCSE at the same time as his son, and Jo says that gave him something he could bond with his family with, albeit on the telephone.

“I’m so proud of not just the learners but also the teaching staff who have to take huge credit for these results in really tough circumstances. People can spend many years in prison, so telling them, we’re not only going to lock you up, but there will be little meaningful for you to do for the next few decades just seems the wrong way to go. Education surely has to be the better way. At Milton Keynes College Group we are committed to providing Fairer Futures for all, and that includes people in prison.”


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