Specialist Conference Paper DID7230
‘Teaching for life’: Does Social Life Skills education as a rout to gaining recognised qualifications embrace a learning for life outcome that can be an integral part of the rehabilitation process?
I work at Hindley HMP YOI, Europe’s largest juvenile estate, which caters for male 15 – 18 year olds. Its catchment area embraces prisoners from England and Wales, inclusive of the home counties. This results in a diverse population with a mixture of cultural and social backgrounds and range of life experiences. The course I teach is Social Life Skills to the academic standards of Adult entry level three and Adult level one. The education department within Hindley is committed to providing a learning environment where the physical, mental and emotional well-being of the learners is intrinsic to everything we do. The provision of the Social and Life Skills curriculum meets the outcomes in a number of ways through units such as Healthy Living, Healthy Eating/Food and Nutrition, Food Preparation/Hygiene and Introduction to Drug and Alcohol awareness. In particular, these units promote positive sexual health and relationship choices through education about STI’s, responsibilities in a relationship as well as challenging the increased risk of sexual activity under the influence of intoxicating substances. These units also highlight the physical and emotional risks of using both legal and illegal substances and encourage positive lifestyle choices. This paper intends to examine how the subject offers an experiential and learning forum designed to enhance academic learning, increase knowledge, build strategies and provide learning for life. However does the environment in which I teach can ultimately affect the end result?
Activities based around subjects such as ‘Healthy Lifestyles’ , ‘Drug and Alcohol Awareness’ and ‘Sexual Health awareness’ strengthen the practical elements of the course and learners gain essential life skills that are an integral aspect of the overall aims. This encourages young people to think about the reasons for which they engage in risky behaviour and allows exploration of alternative ways of gaining, for example, confidence and excitement. Throughout the course I try to promote self-esteem of the learners and highlight that substance misuse is not the answer to their problems. The negative psychological effects on a person’s mental health are also discussed and learners are encouraged to think about this both short and long term. The course also addresses the physical effects that substance misuse can have on a person, encouraging awareness of the damage that can occur so that they can make positive choices to avoid drugs or alcohol in the future. This increases the young person’s awareness of consequences of risky behaviour and promotes positive choices in relation to avoiding harmful substances. “As many as 90% of prisoners have a diagnosable mental illness, substance abuse problem or, often both. Among young offenders and juveniles that figure is even higher, ninety five per cent” (Department of Health and Prison Service, 2001) The course also covers the importance of maintaining personal fitness in promoting good health and how this can be achieved. It also makes learners consider the basis of healthy eating and how to create healthy balanced meals. The skills and knowledge gained through the course should empower the learners with the ability to make positive lifestyle choices which they can then use in their everyday life upon release. An opportunity to have this learning experience is essential to them moving forward into further opportunities and avoiding distraction that could hinder their eventual progress. The design and development of the ‘Life Skills’ curriculum within Hindley HMP does not escape the influence of a social and political agenda. It is not education for purely...