Future of the Prisoner Learning Alliance

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15 June 2023

Letter from Tom Schuller, Chair of the PLA Steering Committee, regarding the future of the network.

PET’s Board of Trustees have been considering their future focus and priorities given the challenging economic environment and the growing demand for its services. They have taken the difficult decision to end PET’s long term financial support for the PLA, recognising that PLA staff and other costs are largely met out of PET’s unrestricted funds. PET will continue to honour its commitment to fund the PLA through to the end of 2023. After this time PET’s financial support will come to an end. This is obviously unwelcome to all of us, but I fully understand the very tough circumstances in which PET and many other organisations are operating.

We have been discussing how to proceed with Jon Collins (PET’s chief executive) and Cassie Edmiston (head of fundraising and external affairs). They have been busily exploring possible options for transferring some, or all, of the PLA’s functions to a suitable fellow organisation. So far there have been no concrete results, but they will continue to explore.

This note is primarily to give you that news. But PLA members may also have ideas or suggestions of possible ways of enabling all or some of the PLA’s work to continue. Below is a list of different parts of the PLA’s activities, each of which could be carried on separately – even if PLA as a whole could not continue. If you have ideas on this, please let me have them on tomschuller48@gmail.com, with Hannah Stevens copied in on hannahs@prisonerseducation.org.uk.

We expect to take a decision on the future by the September meeting of the PLA Steering Committee. For now, we will continue with our usual programme of webinars, newsletters and other activities. I very much hope that we can sustain at least part of PLA’s important work.

Tom Schuller
Chair of the PLA Steering Committee


  1. Enabling/promoting lateral information exchange across the sector. This is done through events (e.g., webinars and the annual conference), communications such as the newsletter and briefings, but also by putting members in touch with each other.
  2. Representing sectoral concerns, with the particular unique breadth of stakeholders, including statutory representatives, voluntary and commercial organisations, and individual practitioners.  This is ‘vertical’, with perhaps the best example being our so-nearly-successful representation to Rory Stewart on digital access.
  3. Identifying and taking forward issues through task groups, drawing on the breadth of experience of PLA members, e.g. on the curriculum or on leadership. Success on these has always depended on finding one or two committed members to take the issue forwards, but we have built up a sound body of material.
  4. Recognising achievement, though PLA awards, with the celebration of these at annual conference. Good for morale, with the engagement of members in the selection process.

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