Into the second half of Prison Education Week and the discussion in full flow we reflect on how European funding through Erasmus+ is supporting organisations to improve the learning processes within prisons.
New College Lanarkshire has been involved in the delivery of learning services to prisons for over 20 years. Working with prisoners who are short-term, long-term, young people, males and females and those in remand the college is responsible for prison education in 7 of 13 Scottish public sector prisons.
In 2015 the college were awarded funding for their Erasmus+ Key Action 2 partnership project Validation and Motivation for (in)formal Learning in Prison (VALMOPRIS) which looks at the value of informal and non-formal learning in prison settings.
Validation of informal learning underlines the positive social skills and competences, as well as other key competences relevant to learning and the world of work, supporting not only the educational agenda in prisons, but also the broader rehabilitative agenda. The provision of informal learning validation can motivate adults and in particular those from broadly socio-economically disadvantaged backgrounds, to pursue further learning and career-orientation opportunities. Prisons provide an environment whereby such recognition can have a positive impact.
The project, supported by the European Prison Education Association (EPEA), designs, delivers and validates informal learning activities focusing on ‘learning to learn’ which supports the motivation of prisoners to participate in adult learning.
The project involves partners from France, Romania, Latvia, Germany, Netherlands and Austria whereby 15 prison educators will be trained in the project to deliver and validate informal competence based learning. They will run various competency based learning projects with a diverse range of 90 prison learners.
In the early stages the project is currently gathering information from prison educators and others working in prisons about the current extent and status of informal learning in their establishments. Recently launching a survey across its European partner countries as part of its research, the questionnaire seeks to help better understand the current awareness and perceived value of non-formal and informal learning within prison settings. Those from a prison background either working or in an education context are encouraged to take part.
VALMOPRIS will actively contribute to policy discourse on prison education, and the role of informal learning. It hopes to bring a change in the mind-set of education in prison, raising the profile of the social and personal competences acquired through informal learning and the way they can be assessed and validated.