New guide supports educators to develop the prison curriculum

Home > New guide supports educators to develop the prison curriculum

25 October 2023

Today the PLA launches a new resource – created by prison educators and prison learners – to support those working in prisons to offer a good range of high-quality formal and informal learning.


Download the guide


The prison curriculum

Speak with any educator or learner in a prison and they will be able to reel off dozens of ideas for ways in which to improve its curriculum. They will suggest spaces beyond the classroom where potential learners can be found, prison staff who are well-placed to engage with those who are fearful of education, third sector organisations running innovative programmes in other establishments, employers crying out for trainees, useful technologies, and plenty more.

In any prison there is enormous potential for a high-quality curriculum that offers informal and formal learning opportunities with range, depth, and different levels for learners.

In her 2016 review of prison education – Unlocking Potential – Dame Sally Coates outlined her vision of a ‘whole prison approach’ to education. And yet by the end of 2019, PLA members were telling us that their prisons had not really developed those ideas. Many of them said that their curriculums lacked creativity, inclusion, and opportunities for personal and professional development.

Prison educators in our network wanted more guidance on what they were able to teach, and so we established an expert working group, under the leadership of Toni Fazaeli, to develop work on curriculum in prisons. This guide is the result of those conversations that teased out ideas and developed new framings that could help prisons develop a richer and more varied curriculum.


…and how to develop it.

A guide for developing the curriculum in prisons has been created to support prisons developing their own curriculum within the high-level policy framework set nationally.

It presents an opportunity for each prison to draw together key staff and partner organisations to review and develop the curriculum most suited to their learners, the local context, and a good life beyond prison.

It takes the user through the process of designing a curriculum – from beginning to end – and is flexible enough that it can be used by both newcomers and seasoned educators. The guide can be used in prisons of all types in England and Wales, and further afield.

The guide encourages the user to interrogate what they want to get out of the curriculum, who could be involved in its design and delivery, where and by what means it could be delivered, how learners might be consulted or contribute, and what challenges there are in developing and delivering a curriculum in prison.

It offers up thirteen different types of curriculum – from a decolonised curriculum to a relational curriculum – to encourage the user to consider how they might draw upon these to create the curriculum that is right for their own prison.

It then takes the user through a five-stage approach to curriculum planning and provides a possible template for a curriculum statement that they may wish to use, or adapt, to set out the plan for their curriculum at their prison.

We hope that this guide will support each prison to create their own curriculum; to be able to articulate what it is, why it is the way it is, how it works, and how it is continually reviewed and improved. A tailored curriculum to be proud of and to celebrate.


We are grateful to all those who contributed to the development of this resource. With thanks in particular to Toni Fazaeli who led this work, expertly chaired the working group, and made sure this guide reached completion.


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