We were delighted to be nominated for a Children and Young People Now Award for our Family Literacy in Prisons (FLiP) course developed in partnership with Sheffield University.

The course, which was nominated in the Family Support Award category, supports parents to play a more active role in developing their children’s literacy using an evidence-based family learning methodology developed by the UK’s pre-eminent expert, Professor Cathy Nutbrown.

The nomination comes at the same time as the publication of a report which examined fathers’ engagement with their young children during participation in the FLiP course.

The report showed that the FLiP project was successful in supporting imprisoned fathers to engage with their children around their literacy, and that fathers were overwhelmingly motivated to participate in the course and learn more about early literacy development. It also showed that after participating in the course, fathers expressed a desire to continue to support their children’s development during their sentence and when released. 100% of participants were also motivated by the chance to spend quality time with their children during the course.

Andy Keen-Downs, Pact CEO said: 

I’m sure some would think it is a contradiction in terms to say that even if you are in prison, you can show your children and your partner that you are a good dad, but essentially, that’s what this new paper from Sheffield University tells us.  

Many parents in prison have very negative experiences of being parented. Many grew up in care or in chaotic households. And so many need support to learn what being a good parent looks like. Many prisoners also have very poor levels of literacy and education. This new research paper confirms that through the FLiP programme, fathers who are in prison can be supported to engage enthusiastically in their children’s learning and development, even if they have had little involvement before they came to prison, and have poor literacy levels themselves. 

It shows how motivated imprisoned parents can become – if given the right support and tools - to focus on the impact of their behaviour on their children’s lives, and on the real possibility of becoming good fathers. I’m utterly delighted with the findings, which confirm what I have heard from many prisoners and family members in prisons where we deliver FLiP.

As the Government reviews its plans for offender learning commissioning, we hope they will remember the findings of Dame Sally Coates’ review,  in particular, that parenting education, relationship education and family learning should be part of a much broader education curriculum in prison. Whilst there is always the need for more research into what works to enable people to desist from offending, the work of Professor Cathy Nutbrown from Sheffield University and her colleagues is clarifying our view that learning to live in healthy human relationships, including as positive, confident parents, is the single most important lesson of all if we are serious about reducing offending for this generation and the next.

To find out more about FLiP and to watch a short film featuring the voices of prisoners and their families participating in the course, please click here.

To read the report in full please click here.