Fine Cell Work’s Open College Network (OCN) courses awarded Direct Claims Status

Fine Cell Work’s Open College Network (OCN) courses awarded Direct Claims Status

Fine Cell Work stitchers can now have their OCN coursework assessed by our own moderators, reducing the wait for certification.

From our popular cushions to our bespoke commissions, each Fine Cell Work piece has its own story… but here’s something you might not know: it’s not just our products that are tailor-made.

Every Fine Cell Work stitcher has the opportunity to complete an Open College Network (OCN) certificate and, like the finished pieces themselves, these courses are entirely unique – only individuals connected to Fine Cell Work can apply. Every unit is accredited by OCN and assessed to an external standard, with officially recognised educational certificates awarded to those who pass.

As Sebastian, one of our Open The Gate Apprentices, says of his own recent OCN achievement: “When you receive that final certificate, it’s so rewarding and affirming to know that you’ve achieved something.”

Recently, Fine Cell Work’s OCN courses were awarded Direct Claims Status, meaning our moderators can assess stitchers’ work on site at our community workshop in London. Previously, each stitchers’ work had to be sent to OCN in order to be assessed, so securing Direct Claims Status makes the process a lot simpler and much quicker.  

So, what is an OCN course?

There are three Fine Cell Work OCN courses that our stitchers can work towards:

  • Hand Stitching for Interiors
  • Digital Embroidery
  • Machine Stitched and Hand Finished Soft Furnishings.

There is also the Peer Teaching OCN that is completed by some of our class co-ordinators and experienced stitchers who mentor new starters.

All the courses have been created by the Fine Cell Work team to meet OCN objectives, meaning they are fully accredited and also cover the various techniques Fine Cell Work stitchers typically learn. Since 2017, our OCN stitchers have completed over 200 units – and counting.

Who can apply to complete an OCN course?

Any Fine Cell Work stitcher can apply to complete an OCN course, whether they are in a prison stitching group, a workshop, or part of our post-release Open The Gate programme.

At the moment, we even have a Prison Officer working towards OCN certification. Tom – who started an informal get-together for other OCN stitchers that he runs in between Fine Cell Work volunteers’ visits at the prison where he is based. Having observed his fellow OCN stitchers at work, Tom said: “I really do believe this is such a worthwhile course. It gives the stitchers something to occupy their time when they are behind their doors. It’s been so worthwhile that I have actually extended our group and run additional sessions myself, so they have a clean, friendly space to continue their work in a group environment.”

What does receiving an OCN certification mean?

Open the Gate Apprentice Sebastian says that, even before the coursework is completed, the structure of the OCN programme is also incredibly valuable. “Having a specific set of units to complete as part of the course gives you an aim to work towards, and a structured way to reflect on your work,” he says.

Ben, another Fine Cell Work Apprentice currently working towards his OCN certification, says that the process of completing a unit is about much more than the certificate itself. “I only picked up a needle and cotton for the first time a few months ago, and I am immensely proud of what I have learnt and created. The learning has given me a sense of purpose, achievement, and has helped enormously with my sense of well-being and confidence,” he says.

And although every Fine Cell Work project is about creating something new, for those working on an OCN course there’s an additional level to explore. This is because the majority of Fine Cell Work products are stitched based on an existing design – but that isn’t the case on an OCN course. Many of the course units ask stitchers to design as well as create something that is entirely their own, so the stitchers have the opportunity to harness their own creativity in order to demonstrate their skills.

For Claire Speedie – who, as Fine Cell Work’s Approved Internal Moderator (AIM), recently visited our London community workshop to assess some of our OCN stitchers’ work – it’s the combination of creativity, skill, peer-to-peer learning and appreciation that makes this such a meaningful program. “During my recent assessment, I really saw a high level of reflection. The written reports submitted alongside the coursework were great in terms of evaluating the tasks and processes, but what was also apparent was a real appreciation of the tutors and an understanding of the more abstract benefits of these courses – self-esteem, achievement, and confidence,” Claire says.

Direct Claims Status

We were able to welcome Claire to our London workshop recently because Fine Cell Work has been awarded Direct Claims Status. This means we can invite moderators to come to us, rather than sending off each individual stitchers’ coursework. We hope this will make completing an OCN course an even better experience, as it should speed up the process of certification.

But however the work is assessed, one thing is certain – seeing the amazing pieces of coursework and hearing about all the other benefits of the programme is just as affirming for the Fine Cell Work team as it is for our stitchers.



  • Chris Barnes on

    FCW is a wonderful organisation. The support they give to prisoners and ex-prisoners is second to none. They have done so much good for so many people. Can’t praise them highly enough. Carry on your incredible work 💕

  • Jenny Healy on

    I find Fine Cell’s work amazing!
    The approach to the concept is so unifying, so well rounded and satisfying. Well done team!

  • Carole Clohesy on

    I love the sound of this and would feel very much more able to volunteer if I could be trained myself.

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