ORIM based projects

Family Literacy in Prisons

The Family Literacy in Prisons (FLiP) project was a collaboration between the School of Education, the University of Sheffield, and Pact (Prison Advice and Care Trust) which focused on fathers in prison. It sought to address the following question:

In the event of their imprisonment, how can absent fathers be supported in their vital contribution to young children’s literacy development?

In the context of a UK male prison population significantly represented by a complex of low levels of educational achievement, literacy, and employment, and by family separation and divorce, the project was a University-Charity-Prisons collaboration.

This enabled the development of FLiP, a uniquely co-produced family literacy project, in two men’s prisons. We were interested in whether it was possible to adapt a tried-and-tested approach to family literacy (Nutbrown, et al. 2005), for effective use with imprisoned fathers.

Over a five month period, Pact workers and the Sheffield team planned and delivered a series of six jointly run, full day workshops for male prisoners. They also specifically designed six literacy-oriented family visits for prisoners and their families. The focus in both workshops and family visits was early literacy development.

Drawing on interviews, observations and questionnaires with fathers, their partners and their children, the study found:

  • Take up of the programme indicated that there was a need for such an initiative, with target numbers for participants being reached and a waiting list of men wishing to enrol.

  • Participation ratings were strong, with sixty-nine men (93%) judged to participate at moderate to high levels on a 1-5 rating scale.

  • The opportunity to see their children during the literacy-oriented family visit provided a strong motivation to enrol in the programme.

  • Ideas about early literacy development were successfully shared with imprisoned fathers thus confirming that this element of an established and effective programme could be successfully adapted for prisoners.

FLiP has implications for desistance and resisting reoffending, and provides a positive starting point for UK prison education reform. The School of Education and Pact are now working together to continue to run FLiP programmes in several prisons for mothers and fathers.

Pact Family workers have worked collaboratively with Cathy Nutbrown and Peter Clough and are fully trained in FLiP work through the University certificated route.