It was whilst he was a volunteer with the Shannon Trust reading plan at HMP Gloucester that John Sidwell (pictured, left) learned from prison staff and inmates alike that maths for prisoners is an even greater problem than reading.
50% of prisoners have numeracy skills at or below the level of an 11 year old. 80% of these prisoners reject formal Prison Education.
This knowledge inspired John to devise the charity One to One Maths by prisoners, for prisoners. Together with friend, former probation officer and recently retired solicitor Don Gillanders, the One to One Maths charity was founded in 2014.
Their innovative approach offers ‘person-centred learning’, so that each prisoner has their own individual learning programme based on their level of understanding, which is supported by a fellow educated prisoner acting as their peer mentor.
The scheme of peer mentoring taps into an underutilised resource of educated prisoners helping their fellow prisoners improve their life skills.
These enthusiastic mentors provide individual learning plans and feedback to their learners every step of the way, thereby giving learners confidence and a sense of achievement about learning maths. A full promotional programme is provided to encourage reluctant learners to take that vital first step to ask for help, together with learning materials are provided by One to One Maths at no cost to the prison service.
Based in Cheltenham, the charity is dedicated to helping the 50% of prisoners who are innumerate and, due to their fear of the classroom, reject involvement in the formal prison education.
Today, One to One Maths is working within 10 prisons across the country, providing and supporting maths mentoring, with consistently excellent results.
Co-Founder John has been included in the Queen’s birthday honours list for 2016, being awarded an MBE for services to prisoners.
Can you help?
One to One Maths is looking to attract more volunteers to visit the prisons and help support mentors, as well as to help raise new funding.
The aim for the current year is to extend the programme into sixteen prisons, accounting for c15% of the total prison population.
For more information on One to One Maths, and to volunteer, visit their website.