What inspires me is the development of my learners and what they can set out to achieve

25 October 2016

Achieving the award as the National Inspirational Tutor of the Year is such an honour and privilege. There are so many tutors up and down the country that do an incredible job educating others and enhancing their development. They too are an inspiration!

I have been working in prison education, teaching adult male offenders for a number of years now. As position of Sports and Leisure Tutor at HMP Lowdham Grange we teach a variety of recognised qualifications including Healthy Living, Gym Instructors and Nutrition to name a few. The Sports Academy I teach in is specifically designed with learning in mind and includes a classroom and a gymnasium. I am very passionate about teaching and the fact that been able to make a difference to people’s life is important. 

To be given the opportunity to change one’s life and help my learners fulfil their objectives can be quite rewarding. What inspires me is the development of my learners and what they can set out to achieve. 

Most of my learners come to the Sports Academy with no qualifications whatsoever with some serving long prison sentences. At the very start, I tell my learners they are on a journey; a journey to hopefully one day, gain recognised qualifications upon release, provide for their own family and to help give them a start in a career which they enjoy. 

Teaching offenders is a big responsibility. My aim is that one day my learners can stand out amongst others, confident, knowledgeable and with a better understanding of themselves and of others. 

In June this year the HM Chief Inspector of Prisons for OFSTED reported that 

the PE department’s sports academy was outstanding, providing an excellent range of vocational training qualifications from entry level up to level 3, which strongly supported personal well-being, and were clearly linked to future employability. Prisoner achievement on accredited courses was high. It was also mentioned that as well as outstanding we were classed as the best in the country!

The ongoing feedback I receive from my learners is positive and that they enjoy my sessions, which pleases me. I do like to know how they are doing and whether they enjoy learning. 

I’m still learning myself. I’ve just currently attended a Life Coach Course which will qualify me to analyse, organise and assess personal development as well as studying for a Level 3 Sports Massage Therapy Diploma. I also compete in Ironman Triathlons, endurance races, long distance solo cycle sportives and have participated in three International Expeditions to the Arctic.

I’ve had quite an impact on quite a number of offenders. Most notably and recently, an ex-offender who after gaining many recognised qualifications gained the position as Freelance Personal Trainer, as soon as one week upon release. Another ex-offender whom I used to employ as a Teaching Support Assistant in my classes did managed to gain over 50 qualifications whilst here at Lowdham Grange and upon release eventually gained position of General Manager for one of the biggest fitness organisations.

John has also made monumental changes in his life since been released 4 years ago. He has excelled as an athlete in the hope that one day he will reach professional status. In July this year, John competed in the Ironman European Championships and came 14th in his age category. John also trains with some of the top athletes and Olympians in the country and is currently supporting children in schools in the hope that one day they can achieve their own goals in life instead of getting into trouble and throwing their talents away. John’s life story has now been published and his book Redemption. From Iron bars to Ironman tells his story. As well as the numerous radio interviews with the BBC and International TV coverage, John may one day have a film made about his life story. 

I am always keen to support and develop offenders for the future, providing them with the education they need to prevent re-offending and to contribute and rehabilitate back into the community.

You are never too old to learn new skills or gain qualifications. Enrol on a course today: you never know where it may take you!

Darren Davis is Festival of Learning 2016 Inspirational Tutor of the Year winner. Read his full story.

The Festival of Learning is part-funded by the European Social Fund (ESF) to help publicise ESF activities and outputs. The ESF is a European Union initiative that supports activities to improve employment opportunities, promote social inclusion and invest in skills. So far, the current ESF programme in England has committed over £1.2 billion to jobs and skills.  Funding is being used to: 

•  help young people, jobseekers and inactive people access employment;

•  tackle barriers to work faced by disadvantaged people; and

•  invest in education, skills and lifelong learning.

You can find out more at gov.uk/european-growth-funding