‘Time well spent’: using the arts and creativity in prison education.

Aims and Objectives

This paper looks at the central role that education, creativity, and the arts more broadly, can play in social justice. Learners may become excluded from mainstream education for a variety of complex and often interlinked reasons and it is also important to understand the wide range of informal contexts where learning through creativity is situated and innovative practice is taking place. Examples included in this paper are drawn from programmes within prison education, museum and gallery education and associated community outreach projects (Taylor).

However, using the arts for social inclusion and social justice is a contested area and cultural value can be seen as a struggle between conflicting demands (Holden).

Methodology and methods employed

Case Study: Undergraduate students on the BA (Hons) Education Studies Course at the University of Worcester can take an optional Work Experience Placement module during their second and third years of study. Currently, we have students on placement with the education department at HM Prison Hewell, near Redditch in Worcestershire. This is a multiple security category men’s prison with a strong education programme and ethos that supports the rehabilitation of prisoners prior to release. Education Studies students on placement at HMP Hewell have assisted inmates in developing basic skills and qualifications in language and literacy, art and design, ICT, music and construction skills. Research has shown that these education interventions, combined with links to employers, can help to reduce the high rates of re-offending in England (Koestler Trust).

Key Conclusions and Discussion Points.

The paper includes examples of participatory programmes with prisoners and young offenders, vulnerable adults and young people at risk from homelessness. It concludes by making the case for a new vocational pedagogy based on a constructivist model, using practical and experiential learning in informal settings. Education for freedom (hooks) and education for social justice (Freire).