This year the European Prison Education Association celebrated their 25th Anniversary at the biannual conference in Dublin from 12-16th June. Leargas, the Irish Erasmus+ National Agency, funded 30 delegates from many different European countries so that they could attend the event. I was fortunate to be one of those participants selected from Scotland and representing EPALE as one of their ambassadors.
With a background in education and special educational needs, I am passionate about ensuring that all people in society have access to lifelong learning. Participation at the Prison Education in Adult Education Conference enabled me to think in greater depth about how to further support prisons and I was really interested in the parallels between school education and prison education.
With an action-packed timetable, delegates had many different workshops to choose from. Topics discussed included ageing in prison; Special Education Needs; mental health; travellers and ethnic minorities in prison; inclusion; post release opportunities and prisons as a therapeutic environment. The aim of the conference was to facilitate partner finding for Erasmus+ KA1 and KA2 projects and allowed plenty of time for networking. Particular highlights for me included learning about education in Swiss prisons, a session on prisoner’s motivation and achievement, and the relationship between internal personal factors (abilities, self-regulation, self-esteem) and environmental events (teachers, prison officers and role models). Another highlight was a visit to the Pathways centre. The aim at this centre is to facilitate the reintegration of former prisoners through guidance counselling, social and peer support work, personal / addiction counselling and educational programmes. We received a warm welcome and learned about the positive impact the programme was having on people’s lives.
One of the social activities planned within the conference included visiting Kilmainham Goal, a former prison that ceased operation in 1924 and is now a museum run by the Government of Ireland. The site has a rich history, having housed prisoners waiting to be transported to Australia and continuing to run right up until the Irish Civil War in the early 1920s. Inside Kilmainham, we were able to view an art exhibition that showcased pieces of work created by Irish prisoners currently in custody and supported the conference theme past, present and future. It featured work by Eddie Cahill, a prisoner who began painting while serving a sentence in the 1980s and went on to have a successful career as an artist after release from custody. Some artwork was created through the use of technology and the exhibition gave a positive view of education in the prison system.
During the event there were a number of workshops running alongside the conference, facilitating project partner finding which supported delegates to meet and share ideas with others on relevant themes, challenges and approaches of common interest. These workshops enabled us to build an understanding of Erasmus+ and the work of the Transnational Cooperation Activities (TCA) team. We heard many inspirational stories that showed how European collaboration can support the development of prison education and its practice.
With my background in education and coaching, I was particularity interested in post-release opportunities and how coaching can play a role in this. These workshops enabled me to share these ideas with others who had similar interests and I was able to connect with partners from Belgium, Spain and Switzerland. We are now considering desired outcomes and planning next steps towards making an application for Erasmus + funding.
A huge thank you to everyone involved in making this conference possible!
Jasmine Miller is an EPALE UK Ambassador and runs Jasmine Miller Coaching, aiming to help others use different thinking styles to enable them to reach their goals. She has over 20 years’ experience working in education as a teacher, head teacher, principal and school improvement partner. She works both nationally and internationally and alongside her work as an ambassador for EPALE UK, she is also an ambassador for the Communication Trust and an Enterprise mentor for the Princes Trust.
You might also be interested in:
- Tech for good - Unlocking a 'needs led' approach to Learning Difficulties and Disabilities in prisoners (blog) - discusses different learning disabilities among prisoners and how they can overlap to create diverse needs and considers how the Do-It Profiler software can improve learning outcomes
- Why FE teachers should consider working in prisons (blog) - covers the benefits of becoming an educator in a prison and that even though it is demanding work, it can be a very good choice of career
- The Hardman Directory for prisoners and those recently released (resource) - enables prisoners and individuals recently released to find the correct supplmentary support and make positive life choices
- Volunteering inside and outside of prison (blog) - discusses the benefits of pursuing voluntary roles inside prisons and working with organisations and charities that support them from beyond the prison walls
- Prison education and library services for adult prisons in England (resource) - a Policy Framework that details mandatory requirements needed to deliver education and library services in adult prisons in England