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Cell block science

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Problem solving, independent learning and teamwork are among some of the skills University of St Andrews researchers hope to share with prisoners in HMP Cornton Vale, HMP Low Moss and HMP Shotts as part of a new initiative to deliver science activities in prison learning centres.

Cell Block Science, a new initiative from the Biomedical Sciences Research Centre at the University of St Andrews, run in collaboration with New College Lanarkshire and funded by Wellcome, aims to provide a variety of learning opportunities in subjects that are under-represented in the current prison learning centre curriculum.

The new initiative will gather information on the importance and usefulness of providing basic science education within prison learning centres. By engaging prisoners in science based subjects, it is hoped that it will enhance and complement current teaching in numeracy, literacy and arts subjects.

Mhairi Stewart, Public Engagement Officer at the University of St Andrews and the project lead, explains: “Many learners have expressed an interest in key science subjects as shown in regular learner forums and annual learner surveys. As a consequence, a number of learning centres have trialled some limited STEM engagement activity delivered on an ad hoc basis with academics and specialists visiting for a one off session on their research area. These visits regularly create great engagement, curiosity and demand for follow on which we can meet through this project.”

The project officer and researchers will use regular visits to the prisons to evaluate the areas of interest and widen the programme to include a series of science based projects at differing levels. Project outputs will be in the form of science communication such as posters, accessible reports and newspaper-style articles and will be presented at the internal ‘Cell Block Science Fair’ event in 2017.

Ryan Dobbin, Learning Centre manager at HMP Shotts, comments: “Science has been an area of the curriculum which has not featured heavily in prison learning and this project, I hope, will help lift the profile of science in prison learning, help us engage with more learners and provide (for the duration of the project) a science element to what we deliver.”

The researchers will work closely with Learning Centre staff at New College Lanarkshire, which provides a learning and skills service in seven public sector prisons in Scotland, including HMP Shotts, HMP Low Moss and HMP YOI Cornton Vale.


Notes to editors
Issued by the University of St Andrews Communications Office. Contact Victoria Herd, Communications Co-ordinator, on 01334 467230 or victoria.herd@st-andrews.ac.uk.

Mhairi Stewart is available for interview. Please contact the Communications Office on 01334 46 7230/2530 or proffice@st-andrews.ac.uk.

About Wellcome
Wellcome exists to improve health for everyone by helping great ideas to thrive. The Trust is a global charitable foundation, both politically and financially independent. Wellcome supports scientists and researchers, takes on big problems, fuels imaginations and sparks debate.

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