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Russell Webster

Russell Webster

Criminal Justice & substance misuse expert and author of this blog.

Secure schools take shape

Justice Minister Dr Phillip Lee sets out th MoJ's plan for new Secure Schools: "Schools with security, not prisons with education"

Last Friday (1 June 2018), Justice Minister Dr Phillip Lee outlined the next steps in the Ministry of Justice’s vision for Secure Schools.

At the same time, the MoJ published guidance setting out the expectations and requirements for prospective Secure School providers as part of its commitment to put education at the heart of youth custody.

This is the first step in delivering on the commitment to build new Secure Schools (recommended by Charlie Taylor’s review) and has been developed in close partnership with charities, trusts and partners who specialise in working with children and young people.

The MoJ claims that this innovative approach to education in a secure environment will combine the ethos and best practice of schools with the structure and support of secure children’s homes.

For the first-time ever – educators will be given the independence to run unique custodial establishments, shaping their own tailored curriculum with greater flexibility and control of their custodial environment.

Secure Schools (which will accommodate both girls and boys between the age of 12 and 17) will have up to 70 places, and will be run by not for profit child-focused and creative providers who will put education, healthcare and purposeful activity at the heart of their work to rehabilitate young offenders.

The purpose of the announcement is to enable potential Secure Schools providers to start preparing applications in anticipation of the opening of a formal application window later in the year.

Dr Lee said:

Good education in and out of the classroom is the key to unlocking a secure and stable future for young people and I am determined to drive forward our comprehensive reforms so that young people are equipped with the skills to live successful, crime-free lives on release.

Physical activity is key to a productive day in custody and I want education to be at the heart of the core day with children in Secure Schools engaging with health and education services that are tailored to meet their individual needs.

Secure Schools will focus on the root cause of offending, by intervening early to help break the cycle of reoffending – making our streets safer and diverting young people away from a life of crime.

The number of young people in custody has fallen significantly, from around 3,000 in 2010 to approximately 1,000 today, but those who remain in the system have challenging and complex needs and have often been deprived of their chance at education. The aim of Secure Schools is to “deliver ambitious standards for all young people, engaging them fully in education and physical activity, to divert them away from their criminal past”.

The vision

The vision document is pretty basic at this stage, and is only a page and a half long. I summarise some of the key features below:

Service providers

The MoJ says it wants high quality providers who will:

be able to establish strong links with community provision and offer a seamless service both during a custodial sentence (through temporary release) and upon discharge.

Autonomy

The MoJ has conceived secure school as a sort of specialist Academy school and promises a degree of autonomy for Heads both in terms of setting a curriculum and in recruitment.

Holistic provision

The vision aspires to a holistic provision with education, healthcare and physical activity at its heart. Students are expected to have personalised programmes which:

build on their strengths and develop their potential, with the use of evidence-based interventions that help them build resilience and develop life and social skills.

The ambition is for children in secure schools to make educational progress on a par with their peers in mainstream schools, “proportionate to the length of their sentence”.

The document also says that the first two secure schools will be located in the North West and South East of England.

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