Dunedin's Methodist Mission has begun a literacy and numeracy programme at the Otago Corrections Facility in Milburn which is claimed to be "much more powerful" than classroom learning.

The organisation began the courses at the prison this week, after winning a contract with the Department of Corrections.

Te Wananga o Aotearoa secured a contract to deliver programmes nationally, but Methodist Mission Southern took a contract to deliver intensive literacy and numeracy programmes at the prison.

Mission chief executive Laura Black said Corrections had wanted "contextualised learning" and innovation.


"We were the only other provider they picked up because we are doing contextualised learning."

An example of the approach was a "young guy who isn't that good with words and numbers, but he's really interested in young women", Ms Black said.

"He probably wants to learn how to drive."

Learning to drive involved "a lot of literacy and numeracy", so instead of practising by reading books, that person could develop literacy more effectively by working through the road code with the objective of getting a driver's licence.

The mission had designed the course specifically for the work at the prison, but had experience through the Storybook Dads programme, where incarcerated fathers were recorded reading books for their children to watch, Ms Black said.

That helped them develop their literacy.

"They're hugely motivated.

"When we run the programme we get guys queuing up to get on to it."


The new contextualised programme was "an excellent thing for the men to have".

"The research shows contextualised learning to be much more powerful in terms of the guys actually improving their literacy and numeracy.

"One thing we know as a social justice agency is employment is a real anchor against recidivism.

"The literacy and numeracy rates in prison, on average, are pretty poor."

The price of the contract was in the "very low six figure" area, and involved two part-time workers.