Government unveils secure school plans

By Joe Lepper

| 08 November 2018

Details of how the first secure school to be built in England will be established and run have been published.

Medway Secure Training Centre will be the site of England's first "secure school", due to open in autumn 2020. Picture: Ministry of Justice

The government has set aside £5m to redevelop the Medway Secure Training Centre, near Rochester, into the first secure school for young offenders, with more purpose-built secure schools planned for coming years.

Work is yet to get under way with refurbishment subject to funding agreements. However, the government has stressed that work is scheduled to be completed by the time the school opens in autumn 2020.

Detailed guidance for organisations interested in running the secure school reveal that the it will make use of the current site's three distinct zones: education, training and health; residential; and administration and reception.

The education zone has a sports hall, outside sports pitch and two education blocks. Planned work includes an extension to the sports facilities and creating room for vocational training, education and social activities.

The food technology classroom is to be updated "to a standard that is fit to deliver qualifications in catering", the guidance states.

The residential area will continue to use the secure training centre's three main residential blocks, which are split into separate units with kitchen, communal areas and staff offices.

Refurbishment includes updating fire alarm and CCTV systems, and ensuring all bedding is fire retardant. Metal doors and storage units will be replaced with wooden alternatives, the plans add.

Other work to be carried out includes extending the visitor and dining area, which will also be the venue for school assemblies.

The plans have been revealed as the government begins its search for a provider to run the secure school, which will have places for up to 70 boys and girls aged between 12 and 17. It will predominantly be used to accommodate young offenders from the South East of England, including London.

The provider will be given "complete autonomy" to run a tailored curriculum, says the government. The successful applicant may also be involved in decisions around the refurbishment.

The government has also emphasised that it is looking for a provider that has experience of supporting children who have experienced trauma.

"The application process has been designed to ensure a wide range of organisations is able to make a strong application, including those with less experience of bidding for government contracts - resulting in a provider with genuine expertise and experience in this field," says a government statement.

It adds: "Applicants will be asked to demonstrate a child-focused ethos and show their experience of working with children who have undergone significant trauma."

Justice minister Edward Argar said: "Secure schools will lead the way across the youth estate by focusing on tailored early intervention and putting education, healthcare and physical activity at the heart of rehabilitation."

The application process is open until February next year, with the successful provider set to be announced in the summer.

The Medway Secure Training Centre was been at the centre of an allegations of abuse following an undercover investigation by BBC Panorama in 2016.

A total of eight staff were charged over the unnecessary use of force and use of improper language, although two had their cases dismissed due to lack of evidence and six were cleared in court.

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