Second chances for ex-offenders through education

The Longford Scholarships

Scholars report back


"It is all down to taking a positive attitude to learning and leaving the negative peer pressures from my past behind."

Kevin is one of our current Longford Scholars. With our support he is doing as degree in business studies at the Open University.  Here he charts the road from prison to higher education

 

Kevin reports back:

In 2005 I was a 25-year-old man, with four GCSEs of poor grade and not much going for me. I worked in the plumbing industry, which offered good pay, but because of my lack of qualifications and my reluctance to learn left me with no job prospects and vast spells of unemployment.

Prior to 2005 I was somebody who was easily influenced and listened to bad advice. This contributed to my reluctance to learn, as well as to the get-rich-quick attitude I had. I ended up involved in criminal activities and picked up a five-year prison term for GBH.

I was taken to HMP Highdown Surrey (Category B) where I spent my first month thinking about my life and where it was heading. I decided that I could take one of two paths. I could do nothing and work in a wing job, train in the gym and pick up my life where I left off when I was released. Or I could use my time constructively to make a change to my life, which would benefit my future.

I chose the second path. I enrolled on Maths and English courses. I passed both which made me feel good about myself. However, I still lacked direction as to what it was that I wanted to do. I then enrolled on a business course.  With the help and advice I received from my tutor I soon learned that business was something I was interested in. So I set myself the goal of setting up and running my own plumbing business. 

First I had to get moved to HMP Wayland in Norfolk.  It is one of the only prisons in the country where the plumbing course I wanted to do was available. However, once I arrived there I learnt that there was a lengthy waiting list. In the meantime I decided to do some more education as my computer skills needed brushing up. The computer course also had one session each of Maths and English.  Again I was reluctant as I felt I didn’t need them to set up my business.

Both my Maths and English tutors eventually changed my way of thinking and saw me go on to complete two GCSEs in Maths, both intermediate and higher as well as a higher GCSE in English – an excellent achievement after my previous poor efforts in these subjects at school.

I was then given the idea of doing an Open University course, which to be honest I never thought I had the ability to complete. As it was at degree level, I was scared that that I would be out of my depth and likely to fail. However, I made a good decision and started with an Open University maths course, which I completed alongside the plumbing course I had been waiting for. I couldn’t believe how well explained the course books were as I had expected the course to be very difficult.

By the time I was released in 2008 I had completed the plumbing course and a second Open University course. I’m now equipped with all the skills to succeed in running my own business. It is all down to taking a positive attitude to learning and leaving the negative peer pressures from my past behind. 

One thing I have learnt from this experience is not to blame these peers for me ending up in prison.  It was me who chose to listen to them. I’ve had to learn the hard way that my actions, whether good or bad, will always have a consequence and an impact on my future.

The only advice I can give to people in a similar position is to learn from your mistakes. If there is something wrong in your life, then it is only you who has the ability to change it. If you are in a prison education department reading this, then you have already taken the first positive step towards changing. However tough education can be at times, just stay positive and focused and you will reap the benefits it has to offer.  As I have

Being released from prison doesn’t have to be the end where learning is concerned. There are people and trusts that are sympathetic towards ex-offenders who want to continue their education.  I contacted the Frank Longford Charitable Trust, who, to my surprise, offered me an educational grant of £1000, which has helped me to re-commence my learning and aim towards a business degree. Without this grant, I would have no doubt dropped out of education. However, I am now determined to succeed. As well as financial backing, the trust also offers mentoring, someone to turn to in times of trouble.

 

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