Serco Employment, Skills & Training Services

Developing Functional Skills and Completing A-Levels at HMP Dovegate

Gareth* is a long-term prisoner located at HMP Dovegate.

Gareth was kicked out of school at a young age and never learned to read. From the travelling community, Gareth says that he and his family were never welcome in schools. Throughout his life, he has relied on other people to read, and being self-employed, never felt the need to learn. When he was sentenced to prison, he felt forced into education and therefore pushed back against it.

Gareth said:

“In other prisons, classes were too big, and there would be people in there that could, you know, already read, and write, and that made me feel thick and caused me loads of stress. When I came to Dovegate it was just different. The staff really seem to care, and it never felt like a tick box exercise.”

Education staff have worked closely with Gareth at every step of his journey to understand and, wherever possible, tailor his learning experience to his needs. For example, allowing him to work part time in the library whilst doing his qualifications and recognising his preference for smaller classrooms and supporting him to work at his own pace.

Gareth is now working through his entry level qualifications as part of the ‘stepping up’ class, which offers targeted support through small group sessions. Gareth says that he is now focused on completing his functional skill Levels 1&2, personally progressing, and becoming a mentor for others once he moves to a Category C prison.

Gareth added:

“I have independence now. I can order my own things and read my own legal mail - something I’ve always had to ask for help for before. I don’t mind asking for help but it’s good to be able to do things by myself. I can read emails from my kids now too (through the email a prisoner scheme) and I’m starting to write letters back. If you want education, Dovegate is the best place to be. I’ve never felt judged here.”

Gareth has a long sentence still to serve, so talking about release is difficult, but he says that he will be able to build on the skills he has learned at HMP Dovegate and intends to use them to help others.

“It’s good they use other prisoners here to help, as teaching assistants. Being able to talk from experience is great.”