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Weston College provides a wide ranging curriculum
to ten prisons in the South West of England.

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HMP Dartmoor

HMP Dartmoor is a Category C training prison which  offers a range of courses that aim to improve prisoners' functional skills, personal and social development and life skills as well as their employability.

High quality construction courses are available and the courses offered have been chosen through discussion with the prison and reacting to prisoners needs and wants.

HMP Dartmoor's prisoners are mainly longer term and although it is not a resettlement prison the courses are tailored to support prisoners on release.

Weston College's team at HMP Dartmoor consists of 17 tutors, a virtual campus coordinator, a team leader and two other managers as well as a management information officer. We also have an excellent team of prisoner-mentors who provide invaluable support for tutors.

The team received a grading of "Good" at their most recent Ofsted (click here to read).

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We work very closely with the prison and pride ourselves on being able to make informed multi-partner decisions about the curriculum that best suits prisoners and prison.

HMP Dartmoor enjoys putting on a show and we recently worked with the Prisons Choir Project to stage a production of Carmen under the direction of a choral scholar from the Royal Academy of Music and National Opera which was visited by Prince Charles . Click here to read more about this amazing event.

We also regularly invite prisoners' families into the prison to celebrate success with their loved ones at regular awards ceremonies and tours of the workshops where they can see the excellent standards for work produced on our courses.

"He came among us one day with his passion for music, his prodigious ability and a committed energy that carried us along with him. 3 weeks later, he had inspired us beyond our dreams. We were in Seville helping to create those Spanish rhythms. We sang with Carmen, we tried to woo those achingly pretty 'factory girls.' We could feel the heat of the midday - and, yes, we had our day in the sun... we whom you inspired, we'll never be quite the same again. Bravo, bravo, bravo."

Written by Nick, inmate at Dartmoor Prison

The Prison Choir Project is a Koestler Gold Award winning Charity whose objectives are to rehabilitate prisoners, ex-offenders and people experiencing mental disorder or conditions of emotional or mental distress by the advance of the arts and culture, in particular through the performance of opera, song, and choral music. 

"We hope, through music and in particular singing, to provide a pathway towards establishing a reduction in reoffending, building self-esteem, improving self-confidence and employability skills for all those involved". 

At HMP Dartmoor we have been working in conjunction with the prison and the Prison Choir Project to produce recent Christmas performances and recordings. Students had a fantastic and transformative experience. 

You can listen to the performances here: https://www.prisonchoirproject.co.uk/listen.html

 

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Best Practice

Off the back of discussions about the therapeutic benefits of animals on prisoners, and after research into potential links, Dartmoor Zoo were approached to visit the prison.

Further talks widened the scope of the visit beyond 'a meet the animals' experience to setting up a competition for prisoners to design an enclosure for the Zoo's Coatis  (racoon-like mammals from South America.)

Two employees from the zoo along with a range of reptiles, tortoises, insects and a pet springer spaniel came to the prison on two consecutive days in July 2017 and about 150 prisoners (nearly a quarter of the prison population) took part, along with curious members of prison staff.

The animals encouraged a real sense of calm, wonder and interest. Having a  springer spaniel in the yard during morning and afternoon exercise periods was a novelty and made many friends - not the usual response that prisoners show to dogs wandering around the prison!

Groups of four to six prisoners worked on the Coati Enclosure designs encouraging close teamwork and some lively discussion and around twenty designs were eventually submitted to the zoo. After much deliberation the winning design was  chosen and work is under way to  build the 'circular house' building.

The zoo is also interested in some picnic tables and wooden benches made in the prison and there may also be potential to sell prison-made items in the Zoo shop.