A unique award which aims to upskill prison staff has been launched at a prison managed by Serco.
Nine employees from HMP Lowdham Grange have enrolled onto the Foundation Degree in Offender Management following a rigorous selection process. These range from Prison Custody Officers (PCOs) to senior managers.
The course, which combines both academic and work-based learning, was first introduced last year at HMP Dovegate, near Uttoxeter, as the result of a partnership between Staffordshire University and Serco, a leading operator of custodial services in the UK.
The course has been tailored to help prison staff with their mission to run a secure service where prisoners are encouraged to live useful, law abiding lives after custody.
Gareth Sands, Director at HMP Lowdham Grange said: "We want our people to think differently, be inspired and fulfil their potential. This course has been designed to help us achieve just that and many will go on to be the leaders of the future.
"At Serco, we are very proud of our partnership with the University and hope to continue to build on this is relationship in the future."
Ian King, Acting Dean of Staffordshire University Law School, added: "The Law School has an excellent reputation for providing high quality and relevant education and in tailoring this award to fit the needs of HMP Lowdham Grange, we have developed something which has much wider potential for staff working in the custodial care sector.
"We welcome the first cohort of students from the prison to the University. This study experience will enable them to develop both personally and professionally and impact positively in their roles."
Senior Manager, Brian Armstrong; Substance Misuse Team Manager, Kerry Radford; and Prison Custody Officer, Lagos Angyl are among those who have enrolled onto the degree course.
Brian, 53, who has worked for Serco for 17 years, said: "I see this as an opportunity to challenge what I know and to bring something back to the company."
While Kerry, 27, hopes the course will give her the skills to progress though the company to senior management position: "Rather than being told to do things a certain way, I'm hoping the course will give me the skills to understand why things are done as they are and to be able to offer suggestions about how they might be improved."
Lagos added: "I never thought I would go to Uni but this is fully funded and is a way of bettering myself and improving my qualifications.
"I hope to have a better understanding of the industry and how things work, as well as a better understanding of offenders and their impact on the victims. I also want to go on to do a full BA (Hons) and work my way up the chain."
HMP Lowdham Grange is a long term category B establishment with the capacity to hold 946 adult male prisoners. Serco has managed the prison on behalf of the Ministry of Justice since it opened in February 1998. In the most recent report from HM Inspectorate of Prisons the jail was described as "among the most impressive category B training prisons in the system".