Students and inmates learn together at HMP Pentonville
25 January 2017
In a first for a London university, London South Bank University (LSBU) undergraduates have been studying a university course with a group of inmates at HMP Pentonville in Islington.
Jenny Fogarty, Senior Lecturer at LSBU, devised the course that looks at the history and development of social justice in educational practice through the decades. She has been taking a group of eight LSBU students into the prison every Wednesday over a period of twelve weeks, to study alongside a group of 10 Pentonville inmates. The course is part of an educational initiative, Learning Together, which brings together people in prisons and universities to study alongside each other.
Jenny said: “It has been an excellent, challenging and exciting project which has seen us all grow and develop.
“The Vice-Chancellor of LSBU is very keen for this course to become part of the permanent portfolio of teaching the University offers in future, as LSBU is the first university in London to be part of the Learning Together network.”
LSBU student Dan Dunham, who completed the course, said that when first entering the prison he was hesitant and anxious.
“On arrival I continued to ask myself questions such as ‘what if the prisoners don’t like me?’, ‘what if I don’t like them?’, ‘how much should I tell them about myself?’ ‘how much should I ask?’” he said. “But within 30 minutes of setting up our introductory session and initially meeting the Pentonville students all these questions had been answered… none of it mattered.”
Rolly, one of the prison inmates who took the course, said it had opened his eyes to how everyone has their own view about what education should be like in the 21st century.
“I really enjoyed learning and working with the LSBU students and this course has made me want to continue with my education,” he added.
Jose Aguiar, a consultant working for the Ministry of Justice at HMP Pentonville, who helped set up the course and manage the relationship between LSBU and HMP Pentonville said:
“This partnership between Pentonville and LSBU was a success story. Both the University and the prison had shared goals of empowering and accommodating individuals in ways that would bring about positive social change. Academic leaders from both institutions worked closely together to ensure the programme ran smoothly and outcomes were achieved for the undergraduates and the students inside prison.”
Shan Wareing, LSBU’s Pro Vice-Chancellor and Professor of Education and Student Experience, presented certificates of completion to both sets of students in front of Kevin Reilly, Governor of HMP Pentonville. All of the students, including the prisoners, had a friend or family member present with them to watch them complete.
Rachel Billington, journalist, author and daughter of renowned prison reformer Lord Longford attended, together with representatives from the Prisoners’ Education Trust and other prison reform organisations.
“We believe that partnerships such as this one, that bring universities and prisons together, can have a deeply transformative impact - not only on the individuals who take part but on the wider prison estate and university sector.
“That is why we have set up the PUPiL network (Prison University Partnerships in Learning) so we can continue to support and champion such important work and help fantastic initiatives like this to blossom across the country.”