Cell matters

8th September 2000 at 01:00
Head of Prison Education, Norwich City College

' We were looking at breaking the cycles of recidivism, looking for links into housing and employment'

She has filled many community education roles, but with a common thread: working with disaffected youngsters and adults. Denise Turner, the new head of prison education at Norwich City College feels the post holds many challenges. She now becomes responsible for education programmes in eight prisons, from a young offenders institution to top-security Whitemoor Prison in Cambridgeshire.

"I want to build on what already exists, so we're seen as a very vibrant force in working with people from these prisons and in the areas they're being released into," she says.

"It's much wider than just Norfolk because they could be released into any other part of the country. So it's actually about being able to link into the national framework."

Turner, 50, took over the job in July after four years as community education officer with Kingston upon Hull council.

Prison education has featured strongly in her CV. Her last job included delivering education in Hull prison and Everthorpe, a category C training prison on Humberside. And before that she was education manager at Hull prison for five years.

While at Hull, she received a two-year research fellowship from Leeds University to study ho strengthening support for inmates before their release can help reduce re-offending.

"We were looking at breaking the cycles of recidivism," she says, "looking for links into housing and employment. If you don't offer this support (to offenders) while they're still in prison, you can't just put it on as a sticking plaster when they come out. It's got to be part of the total regime.

"And that's what I'm quite excited about. I'll now be able to go in more depth into an area of work that I'm interested in.

"The other important element for me is that the quality of practice within prisons is improving all the time and is not ghettoised because of its isolation. I see that as another part of my job with City College."

Turner began as a primary and special needs teacher. After time out to have children, she worked part-time with students with learning difficulties and then, in the 1980s, on theYouth Opportunities Scheme .

She then worked with disaffected youngsters, as a basic skills project worker, and then as a community education manager. She believes this range of experience has kept her in touch with broader education issues.

"I've been very lucky in my role in that it's not just been adult education - it's also been having my finger on the pulse of not just post-16, but education in general."

Martin Whittaker

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