HMYOI Feltham holds approximately 360 sentenced young offenders aged between 18 and 21 and 150 Young People between 15 and 17. A survey of Young People on Feltham A for Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Prisons in 2017 found that 87% of the young people had been excluded from school and 41% had not attended school since they were 14 or younger. Whilst this is not exactly the same population as the older young men, many of the issues remain and it is reasonable to infer that a great many of the Young Adults at Feltham have had bad experiences of education.
We know that poor literacy represents a barrier to further learning, including vocational courses and schemes like apprenticeships, which may lead to jobs increasing the chances of an offender going on to lead a life of desistance. As well as the obvious vocational opportunities, the impact of learning on an individual’s self-worth, confidence and host of other factors may also reduce the chance of re-offending.
Traditional approaches to teaching literacy in prisons have often met with poor results and engaging young men can be particularly challenging. This project with It’s Not Your Birthday But… gave us the opportunity to try something different. Learners were more engaged throughout the course and looked forward to attending the sessions.
The work produced is testament to the fact that whilst they may not have had a formal education, they do have the ability and emotional intelligence to produce thoughtful and insightful work.
It is my hope that through arts projects like this we can help to breakdown some of those barriers around learning, particularly for young offenders, that may give them the tools they need to lead more productive lives as members of their community.
Former Head of Learning and Skills