How I Stepped Up to Level Five

Shabana Butt completed the Step Up to HE programme at Staffordshire University and is now starting level 5 of her Criminal Justice with Offender Management degree (second year of a three year degree and third year with a foundation year degree). Shabana shares her experiences of studying the Step Up programme and how it helped prepare her for further study. 

From a young age I was always fascinated with the law and the criminal justice system and toyed with the idea of becoming a solicitor working in the criminal justice sector. I left school with some GCSEs but did not progress to further or higher education. Fast forward in time to 2019, and my children were now of secondary school age and I felt that the time was now right for me to ‘do something for me’ and take up studying in higher education.

I saw an ad on my sister’s FaceBook for the Step Up to HE at Staffordshire University. I went onto the Staffordshire university website and started to research how to enrolL on the the ‘Step Up’ programme. I completed an online application form and then had an interview with Ashley Cotton who was running the programme.

I received an email letting me know that I was successful in the interview; I was offered a place on the step of programme and enrolled on the course, which started in April 2019. I was excited and a bit nervous of what I was letting myself in for. I had face to face sessions with Ashley and Judy Rimmer, and we were given sessions on study skills, essay writing and academic referencing. I was shown how to set out an academic piece of work and how to use Harvard (a referencing system).  We were involved in some basic group discussions and some simple presentations. The whole purpose of the Step Up to HE seemed to be to preparing us for study in higher education and we had the opportunity to write an essay about a subject of our choice. We were asked to complete an assignment discussing a medical situation; I wrote about diabetes.

I submitted the assignment on Turnitin on Blackboard; we had been shown how to use Turnitin on the programme. I knew that if I was successful, I would be able to progress to a full degree at Staffordshire university. I was excited and really pleased, because I had worked very hard and got 70% on my assignment. It was the first time I had undertaken an academic piece of writing since I was at school, but the help of Ashley and the other tutors my experience was absolutely fantastic and really built my confidence. Ashley and the tutors put on a graduation ceremony for us, and we had a buffet, pictures were taken and we were made to feel very special by Staffordshire University.

I was still interested in law and the criminal justice system, so I enrolled on the LLB with a Foundation Year (FY). I had a great time on the foundation year and received a lot of support and met a lot of really nice friends, some of whom I still I’m in contact with and are on the same course as me now. It was far more intense undertaking the full-time foundation year as we had four modules and were required to be in the university for a lot longer.

I had a lot of support by my tutors on level three on the foundation year and I could see how there was a natural progression from the ‘Step Up’ Programme to the FY year. Both programmes provided me with ample support and the opportunity to develop my skills and build my confidence as I approached the full three-year programme. I really enjoyed my criminal law and criminal justice modules in the foundation year.

A level four student called Farida Zerglaine was on a course called Criminal Justice with Offender Management and she told me how she was really enjoying it. She said that she had a fantastic time on the level four and recommended that I go on to that because I liked the criminal side of my studies. I spoke to the course leader who was also the tutor my FY module – Louis Martin. He explained to me that the course was about people who are interested in working in the criminal justice sector working with offenders and young offenders. I was interested in working with young offenders in Stoke and had some experience of the youth offending service. I decided to transfer onto the Offender Management course, and I had a fantastic first year.  All the support and guidance provided by Staffordshire university over the last two years really prepared me for success on the Offender Management course.

So here we are! I write this now as I start on level 5 and have already done some research for my research project on youth offending and I wrote a blog about this earlier on in the year. I can’t wait to start in October I’m really looking forward to it.

For more information about studying Offender Management with us, visit our Criminology course page to read more about our new Criminology with Offender Management pathway. 



First year Offender Management Student Visits Stoke Youth Offending Services for Research

Shabana Butt is a first year Criminal Justice with Offender Management student at Staffordshire University and is interested in working with young offenders when she graduates. In order to prepare for her second year research project, Shabana visited the Stoke-on-Trent Youth Offending Services and she shares how informative the visit was. 

My name is Shabana, and I have just completed my first year on the BA (Hons) Criminal Justice with Offender Management course. To prepare for my second year I decided to make an early start on my research project, which I need to do in semester one in September. I had to choose a topic connected to criminal justice and undertake some research to write the research project. I am interested in working with young offenders, so I went to visit Liberty House, Marsden St, Hanley, Stoke-on-Trent, which is the Youth Offending Services local office. Fortunately, I was offered a warm welcome and promised a meeting with Rob Morray who is one of the managers of the Stoke on Trent Service.

I was a bit nervous, so I asked my academic mentor, Louis Martin, to come along with me for some support and to take notes for me during the meeting.  I met with Rob and he explained how youth services are delivered in Stoke on Trent. Rob told me the history of how the youth service developed in Stoke and some of the interventions provided for young people who had been referred by the police, social services, and the Court. The team even visited young people in YOI (Young Offender Institution) Werrington. Rob explained how important it was that young people are diverted away from criminal behaviour and substance misuse. He was very experienced and saw the benefits of children being treated like children and not stereotyped as deviant or simply criminals. The team works with young people and takes them out on outdoor activities such as mountain climbing and potholing. Rob emphasised the importance of sports and healthy activities to distract the young people from gangs and getting involved in dealing controlled substances and county lines.

I spoke to Dianne and Keith who were members of the Youth Offending Team and were currently working as court officers. Their main roles included:  helping young people at the police station if they were arrested, writing reports, and supporting young people and their families at court, supervising young people serving a community sentence and visiting young people if they are sentenced to custody.

Dianne and Keith talked about their experiences working in YOIs and going to Court for the Youth Offending Service. The team were very experienced and explained the process where their aim was to keep children out of the criminal justice system. The team at Stoke are very caring and passionate about their job and the service they provide. I would like to use the knowledge provided by my course at Staffordshire University to work with children and young people in Stoke on Trent after I graduate. I am really pleased that I had the courage to walk into Liberty House and ask for some information. I think many students will be surprised how helpful professionals who work in the criminal justice sector can be in sharing information about their roles and what they do. For readers who are interested in this area of criminal justice here are some links I have been using to find out more information about Youth Justice:




GradEx is the annual graduate exhibition showcasing all of the fantastic work of our final year students to industry experts. This usually takes place on campus, but has taken place online the past two years, due to the pandemic. 

You can view all GradEx entries here, but below are the entries for subjects across the School of Law, Policing and Forensics.

Forensic Investigation and Forensic Science

An evaluation and comparison of LED torches for the use in scene examination

Kathryn Davis’ research evaluated ‘the PIT-LED torch using questionnaires completed by Forensic Investigators at Staffordshire Police and [compared them] with alternative torches focusing on the illumination of fingermarks on various reflective surfaces’.

Assessing the Policies and Processes for Sexual Offences at HEIs

Elliot Parkin’s project assessed ‘the policies and processes for sexual offences at HEIs; recommendations were made to improve these from staff and student responses to questionnaires, interviews and focus groups’.

Can we tell if wildlife have been shot with air weapons or .22 long rifles?

Eva Booth ‘worked with the Zoological Society of London researching methods to determine if birds had been shot with a 22 long rifle or air rifle by examining feathers’ and using a ‘Scanning Electron Microscope with energy dispersive X-ray analysis combined with image analysis to examine areas of damage, and quantity and distribution of areas of heavy elements.’


Do 3D-printed firearms pose a threat to the UK and Globally?

Ben Gordon researched ‘revolving 3-Dimensional printed firearms and the threats that may come with them.’ Ben said ‘It is important to conduct this research to bring attention to 3-D printed firearms and how they may be a breach of security. The current knowledge most people have on these 3D guns are either minimal or none, which allows this research to teach people of these uncommon hazards.’

Establishing Pro Forma for the Identification of Migrating Syrian Refugees

Jourdaine Das-Gupta’s ‘research involved creating a specified DVI pro forma for the identification of Syrian refugees, in light of the 6.5 million displaced persons since the Syrian Civil War in 2011. A number of specifying details were identified, and further research ideas were explored.’

Q-TOF LCMS Identification of Decomposition Chemicals in Aquatic Environment

Natalia Ciesielska’s ‘experiment successfully demonstrated that Q-TOF LCMS used for untargeted analysis to identify chemicals of interest released by mouse decomposition in aqueous environments is a powerful detection technique. The untargeted searchers identified complex chemical mixtures, containing 31 chemicals of interest in samples of the mice cadavers submerged in water.’

Reporting of Sexual offences in the Asian Community.

Aiyra Zahid’s project ‘looked at the reasons for under reporting of sexual offences in the Asian community and the stigma surrounding this topic . It utilised the knowledge of those in the community to create strategies of ways in which reporting rates can be increased in the community.’

The effect of menorrhea on persistence of semen in sexual offence victims

For their research, Wiktoria Flos used a ‘gynaecological model to simulate a female victim. Neat semen and mix bodily fluids of neat semen and menorrhea were deposited inside the model and left for 2 and 20 hours.  . The results revealed a statistical difference between the persistence of spermatozoa in neat semen and mix bodily fluids whereas, there was no statistical difference between the two-time frames used within this research.’

The perceptions of the current use of trace evidence, UK.

Lucy Watson’s project is ‘based around gathering the current perceptions (and opinions) of the use of trace evidence, from current practitioners and students, within the UK. This was done with the use of a survey, constructed in Qualtrics, and disseminated through LinkedIn, Twitter, and our own schools Blackboard.’




History and International Studies

How the Trauma of the Irish Famine led to support for the Revolutionary IRB

Helen Lee’s research ‘establish[ed] that the Irish Famine of 1845-52 led to social disruption and emotional trauma on a collective scale, [nurturing] significant working-class support for the Irish Revolutionary Brotherhood and their fight for Irish independence’. 

Partners or Property – War interpreters and International Organisations

Aida Haughton said, ‘as a former UN war interpreter in Bosnia, I wanted to explore if what I have been through is anything like the experiences of my colleagues and this paper reveals some shocking details. Invisibility, sexual harassment, and traumatic experiences are some of the topics covered.’

The Genocide of the Kurds, the Halabja Massacre and the Anfal Operations

Nayaz Mohammed’s project looked at the suffering and genocide of the Kurs from 1987-1988: ‘It is well established that the Anfal & Halabja massacre was a series of military operations which were authorized by Saddam Hussein from 1987-1988 during the conclusion of the Iran-Iraq War.The goal of these operations was to fully exterminate the Kurds.’





A Critical Analysis of the Crime of Genocide within International Law

Harry Gabell’s project was ‘an analysis of the main legal issues which are faced when considering the crime of genocide, and with international entities such as States or tribunals which are seeking to prevent and prosecute genocidal crimes, using scholarly articles, the Genocide Convention and ICTY and ICTR jurisprudence.’

Fairness in Family court should not require equal rights

Salma Hussein’s project aimed to highlight flaws in family court decisions where ‘parental equality rights are given to all fathers regardless of past parenting involvement [and are] designed to perpetuate the traditional concept of a family unit, despite the far-reaching problems caused to separated families.’



Why Children Between the Ages of 13-18 Go Missing from Home


Isobel Dove’s project analysed ‘why children between the ages of 13-18 may go missing from home and identified child criminal exploitation and child sexual exploitation as possible reasons.’




Sociology, Crime and Terrorism

Can bold and self-assured women succeed in Pakistan?

Nafeesa Mirza’s project aim was to ‘present to a wider audience the struggles that women in Pakistan continue to face, [by] analysing the patriarchal society and the Islamic interpretations of how women should be treated [and] exploring case studies of significant individuals’. 


Content Analysis of Gender Stereotypes and Gender Roles in LGBTQ+ Films

‘By utilising a qualitative content analysis [Ellie-May Newton] investigated LGBTQ+ films for their use of  gender stereotypes and analyse[d] how those stereotypes can impact the image of the LGBTQ+ community.’




Eurasia’s pivot towards Cyber Attacks, Psy-Ops and Electronic warfare


Christian Etheridge’s research paper focused themes of Eurasian unconventional warfare, exploring examples f Cyber Attacks on Critical National Infrastructure (CNI), Information warfare (Psy-Ops) and Electromagnetic Spectrum manipulation within the context of conflict. 




Mentoring Adults in the Criminal Justice System – What are the Benefits?

Katie Price’s project highlights the benefits of mentoring adults who have experienced the criminal system. Katie concludes that ‘mentors aid with the rehabilitation process by supporting ex-offenders to integrate back in to the community following a custodial sentence.’

International Day of Remembrance of the Victims of Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade: A Contemporary View of Systemic Challenges

The 25th March represents the International Day of Remembrance of the Victims of Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave TradeA key part of this International Day is not only to remember those who were subject to the 16th-19th century transatlantic slave trade, but also to raise awareness around the dangers of racism in a modern context. There has been significant public discussion around ethnicity and racism in recent months, and as a criminologist with an interest in researching the notion of ‘modern slavery’, there is a great deal of overlap between these issues.

For example, earlier this week, the Home Secretary, like many of her predecessors going back to at least the early 2000s, stated that the UK asylum system is ‘broken’ and is determined to ‘fix’ it by introducing reforms to the process. Simply put, the aim is to make it harder for migrants who enter the UK via irregular routes to claim asylum. Such policy announcements are likely influenced, at least in part, by reports of undocumented migrants crossing the English Channel in small boats to claim asylum. The intention is to make the system ‘fairer’ and crack down on ‘serious organised criminal gangs’ who are involved in transporting migrants. These proposals are controversial, because restrictive immigration legislation does not address the underlying conditions that make such a migration journey necessary or desirable, and tends to make migrants more vulnerable to exploitation, either before, during, or after they enter the country. In addition, these changes will affect some of the world’s most vulnerable people who originate from countries such as Iran, Iraq, Eritrea, Sudan, and Syria.

For those of us who research themes related to modern slavery, there is a tendency in public discussion to adopt an overly simplistic narrative of ‘victims, villains, and rescuers’ in line with the above notion of serious organised criminality. In other words, malicious or ‘evil’ human traffickers take advantage of ‘innocent’ victims in order to recruit, transport, and exploit them, whereby if detected, the state intervenes to save victims. Such a discourse has arguably helped to bring the issue of modern slavery into the public eye and is easy to understand. However, portraying the state as a neutral or benign actor in tackling modern slavery overlooks the role that it plays in fostering conditions to help exploitation thrive, and overlooks the role of other actors such as legitimate organisations.

Very few (if any) public figures would argue against the need to disrupt ‘serious organised criminal gangs’ to protect victims of human trafficking and detect perpetrators. This crime control agenda is convenient for governments to pursue, since they can be seen to ‘do something’ about the problem, and can simultaneously claim the moral high ground by championing legislation such as the Modern Slavery Act 2015. While involvement of the criminal justice system in tackling modern slavery is necessary and helpful in many cases, it also diverts attention from structural factors that are not always obvious at first sight.

Therefore, once we move beyond this simplistic notion of ‘victims, villains, and rescuers’ often associated with the crime control agenda, we can see that factors such as immigration policy, labour market regulation, the welfare system, and resources allocated to regulatory bodies, all have a part to play in explaining modern slavery. For example, the lack of accountability for companies who fail to produce a transparency statement under the terms of the Modern Slavery Act may encourage exploitation to thrive in their supply chains. We have already considered the latest change to UK immigration policy that is based on deterrence, rather than other root causes such as ‘push and pull’ or ‘supply and demand’ factors. Structural issues such as how to properly regulate businesses, develop a more humane immigration system, and safeguard the rights of migrants, are highly controversial when compared to arguments centred on the need to protect victims and bring perpetrators to justice. However, they provide more nuanced explanations for how and why modern slavery thrives in contemporary settings, not just at the individual level, but in the context of businesses, markets, and political-economic processes.

Perhaps one of the ways to remember the multitudes of people subject to historic transatlantic slavery is to consider modern ‘crime control’ practices that, either by design or unwittingly, contribute to systemic problems of racism and exploitation that primarily affect the most vulnerable people in our society.

Dr Jon Davies is a Lecturer in Criminology in the School of Law, Policing and Forensics at Staffordshire University.

International Book Giving Day

The 14th February is not only Valentine’s Day, it is also International Book Giving Day. The day is a volunteer initiative aimed at increasing access to books. We asked staff to suggest some books from their subject areas (both fiction and non-fiction) that they enjoyed reading and that others may find interesting.



Blue: A memoir: Keeping the Piece and Falling to Pieces by John Sutherland

Suggested by: Dr Lauren Metcalfe, Policing Course Director






Court Number One: The Old Bailey Trials that Defined Modern Britain by Thomas Grant

Suggested by: Jo Beswick, Law Lecturer








Crossing the line: Lessons from a Life on Duty by John Sutherland

Suggested by: Dr Lauren Metcalfe, Policing Course Director





I am Pilgrim: Can You Commit the Perfect Crime by Terry Hayes

Suggested by: Dr Fran Stubbs-Hayes, Forensics Lecturer





In Spies We Trust: The Story of Western Intelligence by Rhodri Jefreys-Jones

Suggested by: Associate Professor Tony Craig, Lecturer in International Studies






In Your Defence: Stories of Life and Law by Sarah Langford

Suggested by: Jo Beswick, Law Lecturer





Isis: The State of Terror by Jessica Stern and J.M Berger

Suggested by: Aman Jaswal, PhD Researcher







On The Farm: Robert Pickton and the Tragic Story of Vancourver’s Missing Women by Stevie Cameron

Suggested by: Emma Tilley, Policing Lecturer for the Institute of Policing




Police Socialisation, Identity and Culture: Becoming Blue by Sarah Chapman

Suggested by: Dr Lauren Metcalfe, Policing Course Director






Research Ethics: In the Real World by Helen Kara

Suggested by: Sarah Page, Criminology Lecturer





Stories of the Law and How It’s Broken by The Secret Barrister

Fake Law: The Truth About Justice in an Age of Lies by The Secret Barrister

Suggested by: Dr John McGarry, Law Lecturer




Forensics: The Anatomy of Crime by Val McDermid

Suggested by: Professor Graham Williams, Forensics Lecturer






The Cyber Effect by Mary Aiken

Suggested by: Abbeygail Standen, Policing Lecturer for the Institute of Policing






When the Dogs Don’t Bark: A Forensic Scientist’s Search for the Truth by Angela Gallop

Suggested by: Professor Graham Williams, Forensics Lecturer

Natter Me Duck

Policing Lecturer and Mental Health Coordinator, Deborah Sproston-Bewley, talks about the ‘Natter Me Duck’ initiative she created to help out students during the Covid-19 pandemic. 

Within a few days in March the measures to stop the spread of Covid-19 became immediate and were drastic. You don’t have to be at the epicentre of the pandemic for your life to be turned upside down; due to the Covid-19 lockdown, it is a scary time for students.

Our campus became quiet and our classes moved on-line, all of which impact on the students.

We have students who are still living on campus and maybe feeling sad and isolated.

I am the Mental Health Coordinator for the school, and as such I thought about what I could do while we were all in lockdown and unable to communicate with each other on a regular basis. 

I came up with Natter Me duck, which is a platform through collaborate that students can log into on a specific day and just have a natter, not just with me but with other students.  For those of you that don’t know in Stoke-on-Trent duck is a common phase used.  E.g. you OK duck?

The idea behind ‘Natter Me duck’ was for students to natter about anything.  From how I cut my fringe? how do I bake a cake? or I’m suffering with anxiety due to void 19. It is a place where students can share their experiences and support and advise one another.  

The main aim is just to have a natter and for students not to feel isolated and on their own.  

An e-mail is sent out to all 750 students in our school which informs them of the date and time of a ‘natter me duck’ session and gives them the link to join.

Supporting the Probation Service During COVID-19

Farida Zerglanie is a Criminal Justice with Offender Management student who is volunteering for Change Grow Live (CGL) and working at HMP Foston Hall with the resettlement Team. She has written a blog on her experiences of volunteering under COVID-19 conditions.

Change Grow Live (CGL) is a charity funded by councils and local authorities to support the Probation Service.  I have been a part of CGL since November 2019, after beginning my [Criminal Justice with] Offender Management course at Staffordshire University. I was soon made aware of CGL by several students who were volunteers from Staffordshire University. Some of the Level Five students were already in fully paid managing roles; their successful reputation was admirable. I knew that getting involved with this organisation would enhance my knowledge and skills. In only a short time I have taken part in various support strategies, such as ‘Through the Gate’ which entails greeting the prisoners being released (service user) at the gate of various prisons in Staffordshire and South Derbyshire. My role as a volunteer is to support people who have been released from prison and take them home or to the Probation Centre. We then support them as they reintegrate back into the community; each case is tailored individually to meet the needs of our service users.

We have all been placed under restrictions in this current pandemic, and this has affected our positions, roles, activities and social contact. This seems to be the new norm for our society currently. At CGL we are aware that our support is crucial for people being released in these difficult times; our continued support is a necessity to many. We feel that our service users rely on our effective through-the-gate support.

Other students and I have continued our volunteering duties in supporting people through this pandemic. We have successfully continued to provide the support that our service users require, to the best of our ability. We have been following Government guidelines and taken the appropriate safety precautions, such as adopting social distancing and wearing PPE whilst providing support to our service users. Staff from CGL have temporarily stopped escorting in vehicles to maintain the two meters social distancing and adhere to Government guidelines.

However, we have continued the travelling assistance support and the community support with adjustments. This has been achieved by the CGL team applying safety measures in place for volunteers, to continue providing support to service users ‘in and out’ of custody as safely and effective as possible. Measures such as on the day of release volunteers have been waiting for the service user at the visitation centre, where once released they are greeted maintaining a two-metre social distance, wearing PPE as per the Government guidelines.

The volunteers give the released prison a mask, a bus pass with unlimited travel, and an email address, to pass on to their probation officer if they require any support in the community. The re- settlement team have adapted new measures to maintain Government guidelines and follow legal requirements that the ex-offender must abide by following licence conditions. In addition to being greeted by the volunteer, a member of the re-settlement team is also present to provide a telephone to maintain contact with the allocated Probation Officer, which would also then be used to communicate with the volunteer offering community support.

All the students who are part of CGL will continue to volunteer under these challenging circumstances as we feel that we provide a crucial but not well publicised service to the community.


Step Up to Criminology

If you are thinking of studying at university, but are worried about your qualifications or haven’t studied in a long time, then have you seen Staffordshire University’s Step Up to HE programme? Gemma Jones, now a Criminology student, is one of many of our undergraduate students who progressed through the programme and has shared with us what she thought of it.

What motivated you to apply for Step Up?

I wanted a change of career, I felt I was capable of doing more in life than what I was currently doing. I did go to college but ended up dropping out in my final year due to personal circumstances. Step Up gave me the opportunity to gain the extra UCAS points I needed for a degree. It also gave me the skills and confidence to achieve and learn at a university degree level after taking a few years away from education. 

How do you feel now you have progressed on to your degree?

I feel proud and so happy I took the opportunity to better myself! I look forward to what the future holds and I’m exited for all the future opportunities that may now be presented to me as a result of finishing my degree! I no longer feel stuck in a rut and I feel that I can achieve almost anything I set my mind to!

Has Step Up helped you in anyway, did it help prepare you for your degree?

Yes most definitely! Step Up helped me in more ways than I could of predicted. It increased my confidence as well as giving me the skills I need to write successful assignments and information on where I can get help should I need it! They have also helped me since leaving the programme with applications to things such as Student Finance. The staff who run Step Up have been especially amazing with me as I found out I was pregnant on my second day of the programme!

Thanks to their support I managed to complete the programme and continue onto my degree without feeling like I needed to drop out. They still offer me support to this day alongside with my amazing lecturers who have all been so supportive after the birth of my beautiful baby girl. I managed to continue with my degree only five weeks after she was born and it’s thanks to all of the amazing staff at Staffordshire University! 

What advice would you give to students considering returning to education?

 Absolutely do it! Step Up has definitely changed my life for the better and shown me it’s never too late to go back into education! They have so much support it’s hard to think of reasons not to!

Research Opportunities for Criminal Justice with Offender Management Students.

Students who chose to enrol on the BA (Hons) Criminal Justice with Offender Management course soon found themselves working on projects for Governors and Prison Managers. In this blog, Louis Martin reflects on some of the activities first year students engaged in as well as studying on their course.

The Deputy Governor at HMP Stafford asked me if some students from the course could help him with a couple of projects in the prison. He wanted some work doing on the culture of prison officers in the prison and two of the first year students stepped up and went into the prison and set up focus groups to discuss some of the key themes operating within HMP Stafford.

Sinead Bowles and Farida Zerglaine interviewed staff and compiled a report for the governor with their findings. I proofread the report and with a few amendments this report is now on its way to HMPS Headquarters for perusal by one of the senior executives. Sinead even had the opportunity to meet Stan and Olie, the prison goats.

First year student Debbie Ball is set to work on a project for the Deputy Governor of HMP Drake Hall as soon as the ‘Lockdown’ lifts. I went over to meet with the team from Drake Hall in February and negotiated a partnership agreement with the Deputy Governor. He agreed to provide Debbie with security training and projects to get involved in. We also have our own Civic Fellow, Tim Bailey, who is a Prison Officer at Drake Hall to help out too. Tim is the Outreach Officer and his role is to find employment for the women in the prison. I hope that Tim will be able to help Debbie when she is working in the prison, so this is very exciting.

Sinead Bowles has also been working with me on a project in HMP Dovegate. We have been at work with the trainers at SERCO to deliver some training on report writing skills and the use of Microsoft Teams. Sinead delivered sessions using her own experience of report writing at Stafford to share tips and hints for the trainee officers to right incident reports. We are set to teach the new recruits how to use Teams for their own studies.

Taken together the first year students have had a fantastic opportunity to get engaged with field work and to enjoy a real flavour of the custodial sector.

My Experiences of Microsoft Teams on the Criminal Justice with Offender Management Course

With the move to remote working, due to the Covid-19 virus, our teaching methods have also moved online. Staffordshire University are doing their best to ensure students do not miss out on their learning. Sinead Bowles, a student on the BA Criminal Justice with Offender Management course, takes us through how Microsoft Teams is helping her studies, as well as her own teaching experiences using the programme.

Microsoft Teams is a fairly new platform which can be used in a variety of work or educational settings. Teams is a Microsoft 365 app, which allows members to form teams, broadcast messages, hold video conferences and to communicate with other individuals on a professional basis. As a first-year student at Staffordshire University, I was initially introduced to Teams on the Criminal Justice with Offender Management Degree as this platform was used to convey lecture and workshop materials. As this platform allows for several teams to be formed, I had one for each module including numerous channels for a week by week breakdown of content which made it easy to follow. The messaging function on Teams meant that it was trouble-free to contact lecturers or other students; as a result, it made the introduction to university work extremely streamlined and simple.

As I progressed through my course, I was invited to deliver some teaching about criminal justice to prison officer recruits at HMP Dovegate. Serco had already transitioned over to using Teams as their main platform and this proved to be advantageous to the presenters from Staffordshire University. We created a Team with the training staff at HMP Dovegate, so teaching materials could be created on Microsoft Teams simultaneously by all of the team members. I delivered a session on report writing skills using Teams on a large monitor in the prison’s Training Centre.

“Microsoft Teams has meant that students learning has not been compromised at this unprecedented time”

Teams is available on a comprehensive selection of mobile devices, allowing us to easily keep in contact and access files. Technology has proven to be an issue in the past when teaching at prisons; however, using Teams we were able to provide a problem-free teaching package.

The learners were required to submit essays on a chosen topic, which would then be marked and count towards their apprenticeship, it was decided that this would be done through Teams. The team found that marking the assignments online was more effective and less time consuming as the Word document can be opened in Teams, marked in collaboration and saved automatically. The prison training manager opened up the documents and saw the progress of marking and got an idea of the level of engagement by the officers before the work had been returned back to them. Teams made the teaching and marking experience effective, organised and effortless.

Sinead Bowles using Teams to teach at HMP Dovegate earlier this year

With the recent developments of Coronavirus and the United Kingdom lockdown, Microsoft Teams is more vital than ever. Tutors at Staffordshire University have been holding online lectures through Teams, by using the meeting function lecturers are able to lecture the class live through video call and present the slides which are mirrored onto student’s devices. Whilst using the meeting function, Microsoft Teams can still be used as normal as the meeting is minimised; consequently, workshop exercises can still be completed individually, with the support from the lecturer. Students are able to use their microphone to ask questions, or answer questions, therefore interactive learning is not lost. Microsoft Teams has meant that students learning has not been compromised at this unprecedented time.