One Page: Shannon Trust’s 3 year strategy – our first annual impact report

Ian Merrill
February 27, 2023

Welcome to 'One Page'. In this monthly newsletter, I will talk about the people I have met, and the things I have read or seen relating to Shannon Trust's vision, which is a future where everyone can experience the positive impact of learning. I hope these short pieces will start conversations, generate new ideas, and help our vision become a reality.


Shannon Trust’s 3 year strategy – our first annual impact report


It’s just over a year since we launched Shannon Trust’s 2022 to 2024 strategy.


Looking back, we seemed to be at a watershed; prisons were easing the COVID-19 restrictions on time out of cells, so opening up space to learn; the Government, HM Inspector of Prisons and Ofsted all agreed that prisoners needed more numeracy and literacy support. At the same time prisoner numbers were on the up and HMPPS faced a number of post pandemic challenges, including staffing, and a large proportion of those arriving in prisons being unable to read or do basic maths.


We knew that our peer led model worked. We train people in prison who can read and do maths to help those who can’t, using tried and tested learning materials, particularly our Turning Pages programme. This helps straightaway – it’s easier to manage in prison if you can read forms, notices, canteen menus and letters from home. Mentors benefit too. They gain a sense of purpose, and the satisfaction of helping and working with others. Longer term, the experience of learners and mentors increases confidence, transforms lives and helps to reduce reoffending.


We realised it was time for Shannon Trust to do more; to ‘scale-up’ and play our part. This didn’t just mean ‘do more’. We knew we also needed to be creative, to work with others and innovate. Our strategy focused on how we would bring the positive impact of learning to as many who need it as possible.


With any strategy it’s important to keep track, celebrating what’s been achieved and plan for what still needs to be done. Very soon we will publish our first impact report, showing our progress over the first year.


Highlights include:

  • More people in prisons completing our reading programme – The numbers of people accessing our programmes has grown significantly, and this continues to grow. In particular, where we have been able to attract investment and recruit prison facilitators, the data tells a clear story that we are reaching many more people who benefit from our support.
  • Launching Turning Pages Digital – With funding from the Prison Leavers’ Innovation Challenge, we worked in partnership with Yalla Cooperative to develop the Turning Pages Digital app. Learners can use this when they leave prison, with a reading coach, meaning they can keep developing their literacy skills as they adjust to life back in the community. At the moment our app is available in the Kent, Surrey and Sussex probation region and we plan to develop and deploy it more widely in 2023.
  • Testing new ideas to help with other basic skills gaps – Reading matters, it’s foundational, but it’s also part of a bigger picture. We know that 60% of people in prison struggle with numeracy. Having merged with the charity One to One Maths, we’re working to support learners with maths too. Some of our existing Shannon Trust mentors have been trained to help with this, our maths programme is growing. We are now building a ‘Turning Pages for maths’.


All this means we can look back over 2022 with real pride and pleasure in the progress made by all who learned new skills with Shannon Trust. We’re grateful to everyone who supported us, cheered us on and shared their thoughts on how we can improve what we do.


Direct words from our learners always bring what we’re trying to do to life. Several contributed to our impact report and I’ve included an example here, as it shows a real change in one person’s life and their vision of a different future for themselves.

“Before I started Turning Pages, I pretty much couldn’t read at all. I would have to ask for help with any paperwork, menu and canteen. I’m now on the last book and can do almost everything on my own, although I still need a bit of help with some of the paper work. I have been working in gardens since August 2021 and have just started, with the support of my Shannon Trust mentor, Level 2 horticulture course. Without Shannon Trust and the mentors, I wouldn’t have been able to do this or any other courses.” - Shannon Trust learner

Keep an eye out for our impact report launching soon.


Please get in touch if anything I have written resonates with you; whether you agree, disagree or you have a suggestion for how we can improve what we do.

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