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4 August, 2022 - 19:54 By Tony Quested

Coracle EdTech unlocks learning potential for inmates of 50 prisons

Inmates at 50 prisons in England and Wales – almost half the total number – are now able to access education in their cells due to the ongoing roll-out of an innovative digital platform from Newmarket company Coracle. 

Coracle provides secure Chromebooks which enable inmates to access its virtual learning environment without going online. 

Users are able to access a range of educational courses from basic skills to university degrees   

Coracle founder James Tweed, says: “Providing education inside a prison is always hard. Since we launched in 2017 we have had to overcome so many problems. 

“A lot of prisoners are poorly educated, many missed a lot of school. So persuading them education is in their best interests isn’t easy. We’ve had technical hurdles spanning cultural challenges, prisoner engagement and, of course, Covid-19. There have been some dark day, so the fact we are now in nearly half of the prison estate feels like a major achievement.”  

The company is currently hiring for prison site support and software and web developers.

Coracle's service costs around £500 a year for each device, compared to an overall cost of housing a prisoner of more than £48,000. Reoffending costs the taxpayer over £18 billion per year and education can help mitigate that factor. 

It is part of the battle to combat illiteracy and lack of digital skills, which are very common among the convicted, Coracle says.

Inmates aren’t allowed to access the internet so Coracle’s devices come preloaded with content from education providers such as The Open University, the Prison Education Trust, Shannon Trust, Aim Awards and DWRM.

Coracle is one of the very few companies in the country authorised by the Ministry of Justice and HM Prisons and Probation Service to provide inmates with computers.   

Tweed added: “The prison population continues to grow and reoffending rates are unacceptably high. We need to make greater efforts to ensure that prisoners are able to reintegrate into society after they've been to prison. 

“Our aim is to make digital learning a possibility for all prisoners in the country. Digital learning and skills are key to reducing reoffending, as every part of our society is affected by digital. We must ensure that these people learn online and digital skills while they're inside.”

Coracle began as an eLearning business for the maritime industry. Tweed moved into the prison sector after realising there was a need for digital skills inside prison and that his company’s technology offered the answer.  

“There’s no Wi-Fi in the middle of the ocean and you can’t allow prisoners access to the internet either, so the technology overcomes a similar problem for both groups,” he said.

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