"Thank you to you all for helping me learn new stuff."
With schools now shut again to the majority of students, the impact of disrupted education on the lives of our children and young people, both in the immediate term as well as the future, is again brought into sharp focus. Along with a renewed appreciation of the role and value of education, the UNESCO International Day of Education on the 24th January reminds us that: "Education is a human right, a public good and a public responsibility."1
Disrupted education and a lack of basic life skills is often the norm in the lives of many young people in custody. The 2017-2018 Annual Report from HM Chief Inspector of Prisons for England and Wales noted 89% of young people surveyed were excluded from school before they were detained and 41% said that they were 14 or younger when they were last in school. The report stated: "For many of these children, custody provided an opportunity to make the progress needed to lead successful lives on release."2
It was particularly hard then when, along with the rest of society during this pandemic, young people in custody experienced further disruption in their education. At HMYOI Wetherby, face-to-face education was stopped at the beginning of the first lockdown but without access to the internet, channels to deliver education were limited. An In2Out participant said: "Education is the best thing about Wetherby and now that's stopped." As the situation progressed during 2020 and some measures were eased, education in different forms and arrangements were introduced with the hope of going further in 2021.
Although not part of the formal education provision at HMYOI Wetherby, In2Out delivers its Life Skills Challenge on the Keppel Complex Needs Unit, providing a person-centred education and enrichment programme. This teaches basic life skills with the aim of helping young people approaching release make the transition to independent living in the community.
In2Out's Learning and Enrichment Manager explains more about the Life Skills Challenge:
Under COVID-19 restrictions, the Life Skills Challenge has continued to be delivered using phone and email conversations, with bespoke tailored worksheets created by In2Out and distributed by the prison staff on the Keppel Unit. Where possible, face-to-face sessions have also been happening, although at other times this is not possible and conversations happen 'through the door'. Many of the challenges, such as cooking, can't be completed due to restrictions but we have been able to be creative and target different challenges in various ways to ensure the boys are still completing challenges. We created over 20 bespoke worksheets during the 2020 lockdown.
"The In2Out course has been really, really helpful. I have learnt about myself and feel like I have got something to focus on. It's nice to know people believe in me."