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Talk to me about teaching in prisons please...

(16 Posts)
clutteredup Sun 27-Sep-09 16:23:25

..need to know everything.

nymphadora Sun 27-Sep-09 16:24:59

You need hula, she used to teach in a prison iirc

mumblechum Sun 27-Sep-09 16:26:26

I did a stint doing adult education in a Youth Offenders prison once, basically teaching young lads how to read and write. A lot of the travelling community don't bother with education, and some do end up in nick.

I enjoyed it but only did it as a volunteer four hours a week.

You really have to have quite a thick skin. I've been in lots of prisons when I was doing my training as a lawyer and it's pretty horrible.

clutteredup Sun 27-Sep-09 16:30:04

We live near a category C prison - I've taught adults before but not in prison although I suspect some of the students I taught were there by rquirement of their parole.
I'm sure prisons are horrible - would
i be naive in hoping that teaching in a prison might make a difference to maybe one person or is that too much to hope?

peanutbutterkid Mon 28-Sep-09 12:36:31

I don't think it's too much to hope, Cluttered. But I'd have to be able to leave the job at the door, else it would get to me too much.

I knew someone (Presbyterian minister's wife, actually) who taught cookery classes in The Maze (Northern Ireland, Republican Prisoners). She successfully campaigned to be able to let the prisoners use real knives, and she learnt Irish so that they couldn't say sneaky things behind her back. She found it very rewarding, but yes, challenging!

deste Mon 28-Sep-09 22:14:12

You have to be very carefull. If you hand out 6 pencils you take back 6 pencils. Same for everything you give out, its counted out and in. I teach adult education and went for a meeting to see if I wanted to work in the local prison. Everything went well till they mentioned that if you lost the keys it cost £55,000 to replace the locks. I just could not trust myself to not lose the keys. I have colleagues sp who do work in the prison and they love it.

clutteredup Tue 29-Sep-09 13:56:18

Thanks peanut, deste and mumble.
Hmm I'm not sure about the key thing it does put a whole lot of responsibility on you - but why would you have keys antway wouldn't the wardens hold the keys?
I think I could have a thick skin - my DH is worried they would all be lechy - but he'd be like that if I worked in a boy's school.
What about term times and holidays are they the same as school , and also how does the pay compare with mainstream, I've heard its not as good, is that true?

Hulababy Tue 29-Sep-09 14:12:27

I worked in prison education until last Christmas; worked there for about 3 years. I worked as a Business Studies teacher initially and then as an Advice and Guidance worker.

The prison I worked at was all male. It was 50% Young Offender (17y-21y) and they could be from cat C up to cat A/Lifer. The other 50% were adults, mainly cat C. It was pretty high secrity due to the YOs we held.

I am not a hard person or anything. I had been teaching as a secondary school IT teacher before that, and left there because I found it tough.

There are lots of security things to bear in mind, but as a teacher you are never supposed to be alone with just one offender anyway, and most rooms have panic buttons, plus you can be issued with a personal alarm. In my advisor role I did do one to ones with the men, so had to have an alarm at all times.

You will be issued with some keys, but not access to everywhere. You won't lose them. They have to be attached by a big chain to your belt before you can go intot he main building. You collect them on the way in and hand them in ont he way out. In a closed prison you can't leave the buiilding with them as an alarm goes off.

I didn't find it scary or intimidating TBH. It was fine. Honest!

It can be a bit wierd when you are chatting at home later and talking of some nice lad you was chatting to and then suddenly realising he was in their for some nasty rape or murder. We had some very high risk offenders.

What specifically would you like to know?

Hulababy Tue 29-Sep-09 14:14:38

Some of the men can try it on a bit. I was pretty young looking compared to the other staff. And some of them make comments. But they are not supposed too and can't be in serious trouble for it. You do have to report anything untoward, as it can be the first steps to them trying to groom you. I only had to do this a couple of times though, as mainly it was something you could just remind them not to do, or give them "a look" and it was over. Sometimes a quiet word to the officer nearby or the head of education is enough. It only goes further if they keep going really.

Hulababy Tue 29-Sep-09 14:18:40

Working hours?

I was employed by a college who had wont he prison ed contract. Prisons don't have terms and education is there every week day, except bank holidays.

Different prisons have different hours. Some have lessons on weekends and sometimes int he evenings.

Where I worked didn't. Education was in two sessions. Morning was about 8:30-11:50 and afternoons appros 1:50 to 4:30pm.

The teaching staff didn't get paid for breaks, including the lunch break. Holidays were about 11-12 weeks, and you could chose when you had them.

My contract as an Advisor, although a teaching contract, had differen terms and hours.

One good thing is there is loads of flexibility for part time working.

clutteredup Tue 29-Sep-09 14:23:34

Hi Hula, thank you- I heard you were the one to talk to.

Everything really - I was talking to someone recently who suggested that there might be Numeracy jobs going in our local prison and I was wondering how it would work.
I am a Maths teacher both Priamry trained and expereinced at secondary level with a lot of experience in teaching adults although interestingly mostly women - the men I did teach were quite lacking in self esteem and very shy - I can't imagine most prisoners are like that though.
Questions I suppose are -
1. How do terms work and would I have to work in the holidays? If so how did you cope with childcare in the holidays - I have 3 DC.
2. Are the rates of pay comparable - I read somewhere that they are the same as the MPS but you don't get the holidays in the same proportion.
3.General advice too really - how you get treated as a women- whether you can develop working realtionships with the students or if its advisable to keep your distance - I tend to get better results if i have a good relationship with my students.
4. How the curriculum works where there is a high turnover of prisoners - only a few in our local prison are lifers i think most are on short term babsis.
5. Have you met any of your students on the outside and is that kind of weird or just like meeting any old student?
Loads more questions too I'm sure but thanks for these. grin

clutteredup Tue 29-Sep-09 14:24:19

Sorry xposted you answered some - thanks grin

Hulababy Tue 29-Sep-09 14:40:40

The men quite often are lacking in self confidence, especially in their abilities academically. Many have poor education and have negative experiences of educatin as children, for many reasons. They need lots of gentle handling to get over this.

All offenders are assessed for numeracy and literacy on entry and the Gvernment guidelines is that they should all be working towards level 2, if not already achieved. IT is now also a required subject too. Many are much much lower than this. Many will be entry level 2/3 and require a lot of support. Some will be pre entry level too.

There will normally be the options to do numeracy in class (this is often compulsary to entry level 3) or in cell/at workplace. Teaching staff do both.

1. How do terms work and would I have to work in the holidays?

- see earlier. I was able to take most of my holidays in school holidays. I often chose to work one day a week in holidays though and my PILs had DD.

2. Are the rates of pay comparable

- it is a bit lower. More FE tutor rates. But wasn't bad.

3.General advice too really - how you get treated as a women

- see earlier. Can vary but on the whole it is fine and no problems. I made good relationships with my students, on a superficial basis. As teaching staff you don't actually have to know what they are in for. You'll know their earliest possible release date and if they are life or not, or restricted or not. But unles you read their file you could not find out. I did generally know - and as an advisor I had to know. But when dealing with the student..client I would treat them in the same way I would any client/student.

4. How the curriculum works where there is a high turnover of prisoners - only a few in our local prison are lifers i think most are on short term babsis.

- you tend to have a rolling programme of study as offenders don't generally have the same start and end dates for the courses, and hey will miss sessins if they have other appointments (such as with drug counsellors) or for visits (normally afternoons). You need to be organised to know where each man is at int he programme, and do more individual learning plans, than group ones. Although group teaching still happens obviously, as and when it fits in with the group there.

5. Have you met any of your students on the outside and is that kind of weird or just like meeting any old student?

- no I haven't. They would no that they shouldn't approahch me and I would never approach them. If it did happen I would say hello and then move on quickly.

- you are not supposed to share personal information with the offenders. They know your naeme and that is it. You don't tell them your age, where you live, what car you drive, about your familyy, etc. Some people chose to be known by an alternative name apparently too. Noone I knew did though.

- on Facebook I have made myself non-searchable too, just in case.
Loads more questions too I'm sure but thanks for these.

- if someone you know is int he prison you work at, you have to report it to security. the risk is then assessed. In my case (was my cousin's son; I knew him by name but I didn't know him and he wouldn't have known me) there was no risk and we were both in same place. However sometimes the offender will be moved to another prison, or - if practical - the teacher may be moved.

clutteredup Wed 30-Sep-09 15:55:22

Thanks ever so much Hula that's really helpful - it certainly hasn't put me off. It's good advice about Facebook too , I wouldn't have thought about that I have an unusual RL name so it wouldn't be hard to find me.
I can't think of anything else to ask at the moment but will look for you if I dogrin
Thanks again grin

Hulababy Wed 30-Sep-09 18:29:44

If you want any info off board feel free to CST me or email on claire(dot)king13(at)

clutteredup Fri 02-Oct-09 14:07:44

Thank you Hula - I'm waiting to hear so if anything does come up I'll get back to you.

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