In 2019, Linda McLoughlin won a PLA ‘Outstanding Teacher’ award after her students at HMP Bronzefield nominated her for teaching English, Maths and Parenting skills.
At our first webinar of 2021, Linda talked movingly about education at HMP Bronzefield, supporting women who have been traumatised to achieve their potential through education and the creative approach to learning at her prison.
Bronzefield has found ways to work around some of the challenges of lockdown. Education has continued, although face-to-face work is extremely limited. But creativity has continued! Residents have won numerous Koestler awards during lockdown, highlighting the dedication and collaborative efforts of teachers and learners.
Linda explained that learners receive in-cell packs weekly or fortnightly. Tutors speak to residents through their doors to support and evaluate their needs, offer extra guidance and support and determine aims for the future. Packs are collected and marked and feedback returned to the resident.
This process helps to create a meaningful learning pathway for residents and help them to progress whilst staff can continue providing support tailored to each learner.
In the words of one of Linda’s students in her award nomination:
Linda’s maths class not only refreshed my maths but also provided me with safety and security.
Linda also talked about using a Trauma-Informed Positive Education model – focusing on the person’s background and what they might have been through rather than looking at their behaviour now. Building trusting relationships, recognising areas of strength and creating a safe environment to learn are all part of the foundations in Linda’s classroom and in the education department.
Focusing on real-life scenarios in the classroom can also be a powerful tool for encouraging the women to engage in learning. Using contextualized English – settings and situations which might occur in real-life and which are relevant in learners’ lives – can help people to see the value of learning.
One of Linda’s students in her PLA award nomination said:
Linda has supported me from my first day in education. She recognised my potential and she inspires me to achieve.
This might include developing reading skills to understand medical information, or improving maths to be able to check receipts or compare prices. Linda spoke about one learner who asked for two maths worksheets so she could send them to her son and talk about them on the phone.
Questions from the members of the audience brought out other ways a positive learning culture is nurtured at Bronzefield. Women can access in-cell TV including WayOut TV and Way2Learn, and can request books and library support documents and speak to the librarian for other queries or support.
Linda showed how in spite of lockdown, she and her colleagues are continuing to develop a powerful learning culture at HMP Bronzefield. Through our Wednesday Webinar series, we try to shine a light on the fantastic work prison education staff and third sector organisations and doing to support prisoners to continue learning.