A teacher based at Ford Prison has won a prestigious national accolade.
Aleta Blackall, who works for Novus as a Skills for Life curriculum team leader, won the Prisoners’ Education Trust’s outstanding teacher award.
The awards are unique, as they collect nominations only from men and women who are currently in custody.
Aleta, who specialises in basic literacy and does a lot of work with traveller prisoners, encouraging them to engage with education, was officially honoured at a ceremony in Cardiff on Friday.
She said: “Some of the comments from my learners made me very emotional. It is only just starting to sink in.
“I have been teaching prison education for 13 years and after all this time I still get a lump in my throat when a non-reader reads their first book, or when someone finally writes their name after struggling to spell it.”
More than 200 nomination letters were received and Aleta was selected from a six-person shortlist.
Three learners wrote about Aleta, saying her ‘infectious and bubbly attitude’ inspired people in the classroom and that she ‘sees an opportunity to give each learner the skills to progress both within prison system and upon release’.
Aleta said: “These men, young and old, start in class sometimes not engaging or even feeling they are under duress, not engaging. Then, slowly, they become these wonderful, confident learners who engage and achieve, and you know that this person will have a better future upon release.
“I have a very good working relationship with the learners and it is wonderful to see them engaging with Novus. Once they take that first step, we can provide them with the skills and qualifications they need to find work when they leave prison and lead crime-free lives.”
Novus, part of LTE group, is a national not-for-profit large scale social enterprise dedicated to working with offenders and ex-offenders to deliver education, training and employability programmes. It is the top-performing provider of its kind in the UK, with a 90 per cent success rate for offender learning courses.
Prisoners’ Education Trust funds 2,000 people a year to take on distance learning courses in prison. It also promotes and argues the case for prisoner education, encouraging policy makers to recognise the positive impact of education in custody and improve its provision.
Visit www.prisonerseducation.org.uk for more information.
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