Children's charity Barnardos will today launch a new pilot scheme to support youngsters with a parent in prison – who will be helped by staff at nearby schools.
The scheme is being started at Erlestoke Prison in Wiltshire, with volunteers from nearby Dilton Marsh primary school 'championing' youngsters whose fathers are currently serving time behind bars.
Prison manager Nick Howard said statistics showed that two-thirds of boys with a father in prison grow up to commit offences themselves, and the pioneering partnership is aimed at breaking this familiar vicious cycle of offending.
"Crimes deserve to be punished, but people are often surprised by the hidden harm which is caused to the children," he said.
"They've done nothing wrong but they feel alienated by society. Their behaviour may become difficult and demanding, their confidence can be crushed and their schoolwork can suffer, which has huge implications for their future prospects.
"Sometimes the parents don't realise this until it's too late and the damage has already been done," he added.
School champions could include headteachers, teaching assistants or catering staff. At Dilton Marsh, Wiltshire's first 'champion' is teaching assistant Sarah Beveridge. Headteacher Judith Finney said: "Schools grow the adults of the future. For us to do a great job, we need to meet the needs of all children at all times.
"There must be no barriers to our children learning to their maximum potential and there must be no barriers to our children being emotionally secure.
"All children should have the same opportunities but all children have different needs.
"We are very keen to add another dimension to our children's pastoral and emotional care which in turn will promote high standards of academic achievement," she added.