What is the Learning Together scheme?
On the last Friday of November the country stood in shock as an attack was carried out on London Bridge.
Jack Merritt was one of the innocent people tragically murdered.
The terror attack unfolded during a conference organised by a by a University of Cambridge programme called Learning Together.
Described by his girlfriend Leanne O’Brian as “phenomenal” and a man who ”opened so many doors for those that society turned their back on”. Jack felt very passionate about the rehabilitation of prisoners, and was extremely active in his efforts to encourage those convicted to carry on and better themselves through many routes of education.
Jack was a coordinator for the Learning Together Scheme.
This scheme merges the gap between offenders, and those in higher education, and gives them the opportunity to study together in equal partnership. The programme has proven to increase confidence and give new opportunities to those who have taken part.
Drs Amy Ludlow and Ruth Armstrong obtained the funding from the University of Cambridge’s teaching and learning fund, in order to start an exciting, new, learning initiative, this is how Learning Together was born. Since it started, the scheme has managed to secure funding from the British Academy, ESRC and HEFCE.
The initial course linking criminology students and prisoners started in January 2015 at HMP Grendon in Buckinghamshire, and was built by criminology students and professors with the theory of using the knowledge known about stigma, marginalisation, desistance and reducing prejudice using intergroup contact.
The initial 8 week programme saw students from Cambridge, and students from HMP Grendon learn Criminology alongside each other, through a series of lectures, reading and small group discussions, all leading up to an essay which brings together the new theory knowledge combined with the personal experiences from the course.
The courses have now developed, several subjects are now offered, and they don’t just end after the 8 weeks, further training is available, and opportunities to become trained educational mentors are open to all who want them and work for them.
The ‘learning communities’ aim to be a transformative place, a place that provides progression without prejudice, a place that can create more opportunities. The development of friendships, and working partnerships are an essential part of self worth, and the growth of self confidence, both elements which are essential for rehabilitation and resettlement at any level.
Now the Learning Together programme runs throughout several uk prisons, has a team of staff, and has seen some incredible success stories. There is a national following, and the connections internationally are developing.
Volunteers are always required, as well as facilitators and providers. If you are interested in assisting, or simply want to find out more about the scheme, then please visit https://www.cctl.cam.ac.uk/tlif/learning-together