Troubled youth custody centre to become first 'secure school'

By Neil Puffett

| 02 October 2018

The first secure school for young offenders will be opened on the site of a secure training centre where allegations of abuse emerged following an undercover investigation, it has been announced.

The government wants "secure schools" to place a greater focus on the education and rehabilitation of young offenders. Picture: G4S

Speaking at the Conservative Party conference in Birmingham today Justice Secretary David Gauke said £5m has been set aside to create the first secure school in Medway, Kent. It is expected to open in late 2020.

In January 2016, police were alerted to claims of "unnecessary use of force and the use of improper language" at Medway Secure Training Centre following a BBC Panorama investigation into the establishment.

A total of eight staff were charged over the scandal - two of them had the cases against them dismissed due to a lack of evidence, and six were cleared in court.

Management of the centre was taken over by the government after allegations of abuse emerged, and the quality of provision was rated "inadequate" by Ofsted inspectors twice in less than a year.

Gauke said the application and selection process for the provider of the secure school will be launched later this month, with more purpose-built secure schools to be constructed in the coming years.

"This new provision will place education and healthcare at the heart of youth custody and will be run by not-for-profit academy trusts with expertise in the youth custody sector."

Plans to pilot two secure schools were first announced in December 2016, on the back of recommendations made in Charlie Taylor's review of the youth justice system.

Their aim is to place a greater focus on the education and rehabilitation of young offenders, improving safety in the youth secure estate and reducing reoffending.

Draft guidance published in June by the Ministry of Justice setting out the expectations and requirements for prospective secure school providers reveals that each of the establishments will have between 60 and 70 places.

However, concerns have previously been raised that using former prison buildings will "contaminate the culture from the start".

During his speech Gauke also said that over the next two years, the Ministry of Justice will provide up to £2.6m for governors of youth custody establishments to purchase additional educational and vocational programmes.

Meanwhile the Unlocked graduate scheme, a two-year prison officer training programme modelled on the Teach First initiative, will be expanded into the youth secure estate.

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