Sarah Roberts' Story

Author: Sarah Beresford
Sarah Roberts' Story

As a teacher in an Edinburgh secondary school, Sarah Roberts had never thought about children with a parent in prison until she began supporting three siblings whose mother was serving a long term prison sentence.

Visiting their mother in prison, and involving her in the children’s education, prompted Sarah to ask why schools are generally unaware of which children are affected by imprisonment, how staff can actively support children and their carers through the school system, and also how imprisoned parents can continue to engage in their children’s education.

Sarah left her teaching post in 2012, and travelled to Australia and the US on her Fellowship. She spent 8 weeks speaking to prisoners, children, teachers, social workers, judges, and voluntary sector staff looking specifically at the role of schools in supporting families affected by imprisonment. Sarah witnessed initiatives that teach imprisoned women to read by reading their own children’s school reports; in-school support groups for children; and training programmes for teachers around issues of imprisonment.

Sarah had approached Families Outside, Scotland’s only charity that focuses solely on supporting families of people involved in the criminal justice system, prior to embarking on her Fellowship. Working in close partnership with the Scottish Prison Service and educational authorities, Sarah developed an in-prison training programme which allows teachers to enter into the stories of some of society’s most vulnerable children. Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour picked up on the story, and as a result this initiative is also being rolled out in England and Wales. In June 2013, exactly a year after returning from her Fellowship, Sarah was appointed Child and Family Support Manager with Families Outside. 

“The most important thing that came out of my Fellowship is the need to help teachers recognise and support children affected by imprisonment.”