St Martin's Challenge

A philosophy graduate, Jose Aguiar is a teacher training lecturer and educational consultant who has worked in prison education, teaching and developing educational projects for the last 13 years.  He is a passionate and untiring advocate of education in prison. In 2018, he received an Inspirational Educator Award by The Worshipful Company of Educators.


At HMP Pentonville, a Category B male prison with 1200 prisoners, Jose has established a range of programmes and events.  He is a distance learning co-ordinator for PET. In 2016 alone he encouraged and supported 48 prisoners to be awarded funding for PET distance learning courses, despite the constraints of prison regimes.


He is also ingenious at finding creative ways to gaining support from the prison authorities and sourcing funding to bring in learning partners on a regular basis.

One such initiative was the ‘Learning Together’ project with London South Bank University where 8 students on the undergraduate degree in Education joined 12 prisoners in Pentonville Prison to take a module on Education for Social Justice.  The success of this project led to a similar partnership with the University of Westminster in which regular students on the BA Criminology course studied in prison alongside prisoners.  This course has been so successful that it is now repeated several times a year with excellent feedback from both

As part of my overall ‘St Martin’s Challenge’, and in association with EdmissionUK, I am delighted to announce this inaugural award for prison education. There are so many wonderful individuals and organisations that do such inspiring and vital work in our prisons and I feel so privileged to have got to know many of them during the course of this year.


It is with great pleasure that I have decided that the first recipient of this award, which will consist of a £1,000 bursary towards continuing prison education work, is Jose Aguiar FRSA. I have been continually in awe of Jose’s crucial work in different prisons and academic institutions, and the humble, unassuming way he goes about this. This bursary will be used specifically to help Jose to maintain his personal contact with prisoners, which clearly makes a considerable difference to their lives both inside prison and on release. This bursary will be presented to Jose at the book launch on December 6, where speakers will include Jonathan Aitken, Gethin Jones and Ben Scheck (see this link for more details).


Please see below for more details about Jose’s work and background.

Jose photo

groups of students. In 2018, this course was accredited at Level 3 for prisoners. As well as academic learning, these programmes help to challenge stereotypes and preconceptions and to break down barriers to understanding and empathising with others.


Another partnership Jose has initiated is with the London Shakespeare Workout, a charity that employs Shakespeare as an interactive tool to promote self-confidence, and its link with RADA graduating students. This partnership has produced a programme of drama workshops for Pentonville prisoners.  This experience was captured in performances in the first education conference held inside Pentonville “ Education and Violence Reduction”, organised by Jose, along with poetry readings, testimonies from the men and presentations from some top figures in prison education policy. In all his work Jose puts the prisoners’ voice at the centre.  This led him to joint-authoring ‘Involve, Improve, Inspire – A Prisoner Learner Voice Toolkit’ with PET in 2013 and in promoting ‘Learner Voice’ a project funded by the Ministry of Justice on rehabilitative cultures in 2014-5.

Perhaps Jose is best summed up in the words of a prisoner who said he was a ‘one man learning campus, always on the move looking for new ways to inspire and educate’.