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'I have to rebuild my life';FE Focus

Simon Midgley assesses the state of prison education through the role of a Manchester college and the experience of an inmate

ROBIN, a 39 year-old divorcee, originally from Newcastle, has been on remand at the private Group 4 prison, Wolds in East Yorkshire, for the past four months. It is the first time he has ever been in prison.

After pleading guilty to a charge of wounding following a stress-related nervous breakdown, he was sentenced to three years' imprisonment.

On arrival, Robin sought out the Wolds' educational guidance worker. He wanted to study subjects that would enable him to work after his release. He has also been attending evening classes in pottery and catering.

"The facilities for learning are here but it is up to the individual to make use of them or not", says Robin. "The teaching has been excellent. There can be difficulties in some of the open-learning sessions with a mix of individuals and some people perhaps are not as motivated as others."

Robin already has eight O-levels, three A-levels and spent two years studying for a dentistry degree which he did not complete. He also spent 18 years working as a middle to senior manager in the pharmaceutical industry.

"One minute you are at home, the next minute you are in prison. Its quite a shock to the system," he says. "But I quickly realised that I was going to have to rebuild my life after whatever sentence I was given and to do that I felt I should try to obtain some more qualifications in subjects that would be useful in terms of gaining employment.

Since being in prison, Robin has achieved an RSA Computer Literacy and Information Technology certificate, an RSA Integrated Business Technology certificate, RSA Text Processing and a first-class pass in Pitman Business Studies level 1.

He is currently studying for an RSA in desktop publishing and is about to take a level 2 business studies exam.

In the medium-term Robin wants to do a business studies A-level. He is considering taking up a franchising opportunity when he leaves prison. "I know that whenever I am released it's going to be very difficult to get a job. I want to get IT and business studies skills so that I can try to do something myself or, failing that, have more formal qualifications to offer a prospective employer."

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