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Learning Together Butler Law Course

Claudia Vince, about 4 years ago

'Just is as just does, there is no justice, there is just us' - Tom, Learning Together Student, HMP Grendon.

In a previous blog, we have featured the innovative prison education initiative that brings together students from universities and prisons to learn alongside one another. Learning Together is now established across the country and founders Drs Ruth Armstrong and Amy Ludlow have recently introduced a new pilot course that is inspired by the rule of law and a desire to increase access to justice for all.

'Learning Together springs from the conviction that, if we learn together, we can shape the future together, our own futures and the future of those around us. Understanding some of the challenges people face in accessing justice can help to bring the law to life. Law isn't just black and white words; or a set of rules we must not break. Law is the space between us, it is how we interact and understand one another.' Ruth and Amy

The course has been designed and delivered by Jack Merritt, a Learning Together alumni who completed the criminology course at HMP Grendon in 2016/2017. The course is taking place in HMP Warren Hill in Suffolk. The course has been welcomed by staff at Warren Hill, and the head of Learning and Skills, Matt Deal has worked hard to ensure the project runs smoothly and is widely promoted around the prison.

'Being a student on Learning Together is different to other types of being a student. I found I put in a huge amount more of myself to the course but also got loads more out.' Jack

'On the Butler Law course, students work together to create resources and ideas that can communicate and shape the law.' The course is designed to teach students research skills which they will then put to use in group research projects. Each group has selected an area of law and are working to produce an advice guide or toolkit to support those facing difficulties in the criminal justice system. These projects are also paired with a series of guest lectures titled 'Accessing Justice', which aim to teach students legal theory and encourage them to think critically about the law.

'The students have now attended two sessions, and the work they are producing and the ideas that they are exploring are exciting and hugely encouraging. We have an incredibly bright group and I am looking forward to seeing how they develop over the course. Jack

While the course is still in its early stages, students from Cambridge and Warren Hill have responded enthusiastically so far. As with the other Learning Together programmes, the course facilitates an environment that allows students from all walks of life to learn with and from one another through dialogue and the sharing of experiences. Throughout the course, students forge bonds with one another that benefit their learning. Not only are they being taught valuable, transferable skills but the experience can encourage students to keep each other in mind as they progress their learning in the future. Indeed, the lessons they learn are likely to extend far beyond their academic lives.

Learning Together challenges the preconceived ideas individuals may have of one another, and facilitates an inclusive and individually, institutionally and socially transformative learning environment. In this setting, background, history and previous educational experiences all shape the experiences of learning and students are provided with higher education opportunities to study together. Previous Learning Together courses have demonstrated that this way of learning benefits everyone involved, with students from both prisons and universities experiencing increased confidence, self-belief and hope for the future.

'We want our students to understand the law as something they can access and use to shape the kind of world we all want to live in – a world where there is justice for all.' Ruth and Amy

Keep up to date with how Learning Together is progressing by following @JustisTogether on Twitter.