More than 100 newly recruited Prison Officers have started their training at Leeds Trinity University last week.


Participants on the ‘Unlocked Graduates’ programme started a two-year leadership scheme for Prison Officers on Wednesday 22 July. They will work full-time in prisons across the country from September and study part-time for a Masters degree in Applied Custodial Leadership with Leeds Trinity University.

The course starts with an intensive six -week training programme, taking place at Leeds Trinity’s campus in Horsforth, where the participants will be trained on site and spend some time in prisons across the country where they will be taking up their posts if successful.

Several high-profile speakers will address the trainee Prison Officers in the coming weeks with the Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice, Rt Hon Robert Buckland QC kicking off at their Opening Ceremony.

Natasha Porter, CEO and founder of Unlocked Graduates, said: “We are excited to be introducing our fourth cohort of highly trained and motivated officers into the prison service and look forward to them having an immediate impact on the Prison Service from September. The COVID-19 pandemic is an unprecedented challenge for all public services and the prison system is no exception. The frontline workforce of Prison Officers has never been more crucial than as   they work to support prisoners during this time.

“We are indebted to all at Leeds Trinity University who are working with us so closely to allow this training to go ahead.”

To ensure the health and safety of participants, trainers and staff during the training programme, measures have been put into place at the University, including: hand sanitisers at each building entrance; screens at reception desks; doors fitted with foot handles where possible; and clear signage for a one-way system for the campus.

Professor Margaret A House OBE, Vice-Chancellor at Leeds Trinity University, said: “The University’s core values of care, collaboration, integrity, excellence and inclusivity resonate entirely with the Unlocked Leadership Programme and I am thrilled that we are able be work with together to deliver this innovative and much needed programme.

“In hosting the Summer Institute, we are joining many other universities across the country who are offering their services (whether that be research, expertise or facilities) in the fight against COVID-19, and I am proud that we can open our campus for this essential keyworker training.”

In a letter to Professor Margaret House, Gail Hydon, Divisional Director for Leadership, Talent and Capability at the Ministry of Justice, said: “Central to our workforce planning is a pipeline of new trained officers. The Unlocked Programme provides critical relief with a cohort of highly trained and motivated officers, who will have an immediate impact in our establishments from September.

“I would like to thank Leeds Trinity University for providing the facilities and services to allow this training to go ahead. The effort to tackle the effects of coronavirus in prisons is vital, and the support of Leeds Trinity University and Unlocked Graduates is invaluable.”

Unlocked is an award-winning two-year leadership programme specifically aimed at encouraging the brightest and the best graduates, and career changers to become Prison Officers. The programme is aimed at raising the status of the profession by attracting a different kind of leader to work in prisons and help identify ways to reform the prison system, reduce reoffending and improve rehabilitation.

Over the course of the two-years, participants receive a range of training and support that encompasses all the mandatory Prison Officer training as well as undertaking a fully-funded Masters at Leeds Trinity that will equip them with the theoretical knowledge to embark on their career as prison  officers and leaders. 

The Masters has been developed, and will be led, by Dr Danielle McDermott and former prison Governor Claire Vilarrubi, both academics at Leeds Trinity University, who between them have over 30 years’ experience working in prisons.

Dr Danielle McDermott, Senior Lecturer in Forensic Psychology and programme lead for Unlocked at Leeds Trinity University, said: “The knowledge and skills Claire and I have acquired over 30 years in the Prison Service will serve to bridge the gap between academic theory and professional practice.

“Throughout the programme, participants will focus on identifying ways to reform the prison system, leading positive change, and improving the wellbeing and rehabilitation outcomes for people in prison. At a time when reducing violence, self-harm and re-offending rates key priorities for the Prison Service, it has never been more important to develop the Prison Officer role.”

Trainees will leave Leeds Trinity at the beginning of September to begin their full-time, front-line roles with HMPPS.

Applications to join the Unlocked Graduates programme in 2021 will open in September. Visit the Unlocked Graduates website for more information.

Categories: Criminology, Sociology and Policing

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