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Leeds Trinity University hosts the Lord Chancellor visiting Unlocked Graduates’ Summer Institute

This summer, the 2023 cohort of students on the highly sought after Unlocked Graduates Leadership Development Programme, have completed their initial training at the Summer Institute, based at Leeds Trinity’s Main campus in Horsforth. After a six-week intense training period, the new Unlocked Prison Officers will now descend to their posts in prisons across England and Wales, reaching a third of the prison population.

On Tuesday 29 August, around 250 Unlocked participants had the opportunity to attend an in-person talk with the Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice, Rt Hon Alex Chalk KC MP, who thanked them for their service to the public. 

He said:

“Becoming a Prison Officer is a hugely important and rewarding career, protecting the public and changing lives for the better. It is encouraging to see so much talent joining our prison service, and we will build on this by continuing to improve pay and by launching our largest ever recruitment drive.”

Leeds Trinity University has delivered the Masters in Applied Custodial Leadership as part of Unlocked Graduates’ Leadership Development Programme for the past three years. The Masters programme was developed in partnership with Unlocked Graduates by Professor Danielle McDermott, Head of Prisons and Custody and Associate Professor, Claire Vilarrubi, who, between them, have over 30 years’ experience in the Criminal Justice System.

The year’s cohort commenced their learning at an exciting time as the University’s Prisons and Custody team celebrated a successful summer of achievements.

In May, a special edition of the Prison Service Journal was published featuring research undertaken by existing participants on the programme as part of their Master’s degree in Applied Custodial Leadership. The journal was also co-edited by the Prisons and Custody team including Leeds Trinity’s Professor Danielle McDermott, Claire Vilarrubi, Senior Lecturer, Dr Sarah Waite and Senior University Teacher, Emma Tymon.

The following month, the Prisons and Custody team were announced as winners of the 2023 British Society of Criminology Learning and Teaching Network’s National Award for Excellence in Teaching Criminology and Criminal Justice. This prestigious award is given to the Higher Education institution which demonstrates the best practice in teaching criminology and the Prisons and Custody team claimed the prize ahead of other high-quality competitors in recognition of the Applied Research Project module on the Unlocked programme, which allows students to apply theoretical knowledge and research skills to current work-based problems, creating innovation, real-world change, and HMPPS strategic direction. 

This year, which is the fourth Summer Institute to take place on the Horsforth campus, saw approximately 130 students become ready for their first days on the landings as Band 3 prison officers. Unlocked Graduates has now recruited, trained and supported over 750 graduates as frontline prison officers. Demand for places proved to be higher than ever before, with figures showing that there were almost 30 applicants for every one space available on the programme. 

For the first time this year, a number of participants will be based at HMYOI Wetherby, where Professor McDermott started her career as a psychologist. 

Professor Danielle McDermott said:

“It was an honour to host the Rt Hon Alex Chalk KC MP, at Leeds Trinity University for the Unlocked Graduates Summer Institute. It was reassuring to hear his thoughts on the importance of the Prison Officer role and his commitment to making our prisons safer and more decent for those who live and work in them.

“I am lucky to be in a role where I can work with so many inspiring people and I am immensely proud of the many achievements reached by my colleagues in the Prisons and Custody team. As practitioners and researchers ourselves, we are incredibly invested in the application of the Masters programme, and have witnessed how participants on the Unlocked Graduates programme are influencing the Prison Service in a hugely positive way.

“I wish all the best to the 2023 cohort of Unlocked Graduates who start as Prison Officers, whilst also undertaking a part-time Masters in Applied Custodial Leadership at Leeds Trinity University.”

Natasha Porter OBE, Founder and CEO of Unlocked Graduates, said:

“Since 2017, Unlocked Graduates has recruited, trained and supported over 750 high-flying graduates to become prison officers relentlessly focused on reducing reoffending.

“High-quality prisons with excellent prison officers make our streets and society safer. We want to make sure the best people join the prison service and are trained to have impact. Leeds Trinity University has been working with us to deliver the master’s degree component of our core training, and with support of their amazing team of academics, our participants are better able to reflect on and apply evidence around what works to their daily work. This enables them to be powerful agents of change in prisons.

“We continue to be very excited about the impact those incredible people who join our programme are able to have and remain grateful to the Ministry of Justice for their ongoing support. We are also hugely thankful to the Lord Chancellor for visiting our training.”

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