Offender learning in the community

Project overview

By Joe Shamash

There has been a lot of research into learning opportunities in prison, but less is known about provision for offenders serving sentences in the community. The learning needs of offenders subject to community orders are likely to be very similar to those of prisoners. The context however, is very different, as are offenders’ perceptions of the accessibility and quality of learning, and the incentives and barriers to participation in education and training.

In Outside Chances, we commissioned De Montfort University Division of Community and Criminal Justice to examine learning and skills provision for offenders in the community and how these services are experienced by the learners themselves. Interviews were conducted with 127 offenders and more than 30 professionals, including offender managers and education providers, in four Probation Trust Areas in England.

Project outcomes

The report puts forward recommendations for improving provision for offender learners in the community, focussing on:

  • Learner and provider perspectives on what works best
  • The diverse learning needs of offenders
  • Initial assessment of learners - the first critical point on the offender learner journey
  • Motivating offenders on the path to rehabilitation
  • Learning and skills in the bigger offender rehabilitation picture
  • The value of aspirational approaches in education and training
  • The depth and breadth of the benefits of learning and skills in rehabilitation

Following on from Outside Chances we developed a toolkit for teachers and trainers working with vulnerable and marginalised learners, including offenders, in partnership with the Institute of Education. The toolkit covers ICT, literacy, numeracy and employer engagement amongst other key aspects of learning and skills provision.

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At the end of the day, it's all about improving yourself, improving your abilities...growing as a person. 

Offender learner
Project duration

May 2010 - January 2011