Our brand-new early years focused criminal justice work

20 May 2022
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As part of the Hungry Little Minds campaign, the home learning environment team recently ran events in two prisons across the country to provide parents and carers with resources and activity packs to help support their little ones’ literacy and language development.

Since the Covid-19 pandemic, the home learning environment team has continued supporting the hardest to reach families in their 12 target areas.

Hungry Little Minds at HMP High Down

Our first trial event took place at HMP High Down where we worked in partnership with our Hungry Little Minds delivery partner, the Institute of Wellbeing and the Prison Advice and Care Trust (PACT) team. Together we delivered an afternoon of arts and crafts with the families who were about to go inside the prison to see the male residents. We also gifted 100 goodie bags to the families, who either attended on the day or had scheduled visits during that coming week.

Each goodie bag had a variety of resources to support learning and development of children’s literacy and language skills at home. The resources are easy to understand, simple to carry out, and can slot into a child’s daily routine. We also added a couple of beautiful books to spark a love of reading.

Usually, the home learning environment campaign works in the community, in nurseries and early years settings. However, by extending the campaign into prison settings we had the opportunity to reach more families across the country. Research from Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Prisons has shown that nearly two-thirds (62%) of people entering prisons were assessed as having literacy skills expected of an 11-year-old. We therefore planned to work with the family services teams and third-party organisations such as HALOW and Spurgeons to continue to get chat, play and read resources to the families who need it most.

Following on from the success of our first event at HMP High Down, we delivered a family day event at HMP Oakwood. At this prison, we worked directly with a small cohort of male residents and their families. We wanted our Hungry Little Minds activity sessions to be as interactive as possible, bring the whole family together through our chat, play and read activities. The campaign materials and activities brought the families together, giving the parents books, fun activities and games to use with their little ones during the family day.

We were delighted to see the men positively engaging with our activities. Our ‘All About Me’ storytelling activities were an immediate hit, alongside our scavenger hunts around the family hall. The day was a resounding success with positive feedback.

"It was lovely to feel valued and not just a prisoner's wife"

A mum at our family day event at HMP Oakwood

Our Hungry Little Minds delivery partner, West Smethwick Enterprise, delivered the second session in HMP Oakwood. This is the first time they have worked in a prison setting, and all four members of staff thoroughly enjoyed delivering the session – so much so they have been asked to attend further family days throughout the year.

Daniel Daly, Family Intervention Manager at HMP Oakwood said that the men and the team were very impressed with the Hungry Little Minds resources, and communicated the male residents’ shock as they asked, “Why is anyone giving us these resources for free as we are prisoners?”

Storytelling and reading at HMP Swaleside

Following on from the early years work in prisons, the adult literacy team at the National Literacy Trust are delighted to have secured three years of funding from the Colyer Fergusson Charitable Trust. The adult literacy team will be delivering a brand-new parent and child project at HMP Swaleside, a category B prison located on the Isle of Sheppey. This three-year project aims to work with the male residents of Swaleside, to engage, empower and motivate them to engage with their children through storytelling and reading. The team are delighted to have secured this funding and are looking forward to delivering the project.