Rosie Phillips
Posted on 18 Feb 2016

Secure free schools instead of prisons for young offenders?

The Government are currently considering plans to turn prisons for young offenders into "high-quality" free schools. This would mean that offenders would serve their sentences in "secure schools" instead of young offender institutions, thereby −receiving an education at the same time.

The recommendations are based on a review, ordered by the government last year, of youth justice which was carried out by Charlie Taylor, the former chief executive of the National College for Teaching and Leadership (NCTL).

It has been suggested by Mr Taylor (a former headteacher) that rehabilitating young people would be much more effective if "education was placed at its heart." The five young offender institutions and three secure training centers for young people in England and Wales are proposed to be replaced by "secure schools" where high-quality vocational education including English and Maths would be taught "in a more therapeutic environment".

40% of those detained in young offender institutions have not been to school since they were aged 14, the report finds, and nearly nine out of 10 have been excluded from school at some point. Children are expected to receive 30 hours of education a week but children in young offender institutes are only receiving 17.

Mr Taylor said:

"Education is important for all children, but for those involved in offending it is vital. We need a resolute focus on giving children in trouble with the law the skills, qualifications and aptitudes to lead successful, law-abiding lives."

David Cameron said:

"In short, this will mean turning existing young offender institutions into what will effectively be high-quality schools that will demand the highest standards." Justice Secretary Michael Gove also said: "I am in no doubt that our system of youth justice needs reform. Although youth offending is down, recidivism rates are high, and the care and supervision of young offenders in custody is not good enough."

For more information, please contact Rosie Phillips on or 01392 687774