'Fortified school' to educate young offenders

Published on Friday, 17 January 2014 11:04
Written by Daniel Mason

A 'fortified school' housing hundreds of young people will be built as part of government plans to put education at the centre of the rehabilitation of youth offenders.

Announced today by the deputy prime minister, Nick Clegg, and justice secretary Chris Grayling, the proposal is designed to help cut the reoffending rate, which currently sees three quarters of young criminals return to crime when they are released.

The new Secure College, described by the government as a fortified school, will focus on strong discipline and more than double the 12 hours spent by inmates on education each week.

Clegg said: "Criminals can't go unpunished, but young people who've made mistakes and committed crime can't simply be left on the scrapheap. If we expect them to turn their lives around, we have to put their time inside to good use."

He added: "Some young offenders spend less than one school day a week in the classroom. By increasing the amount of time young offenders spend learning, we can help them to move away from crime, take responsibility for their actions, and rebuild their lives."

The college will be built next to Glen Parva, a young offender institute in Leicestershire, at a cost of £85m. When it opens in 2017 it will accommodate 320 offenders aged between 12 and 17, according to the proposal. Staff will consist of a headteacher, education professionals and offender managers.

Grayling said the reoffending rate showed that the current system was not working for young people – some 1,323 of whom were in custody in England and Wales at the end of November 2013.

"It is right that the most serious or persistent young offenders face custody but we must use this time to tackle the root cause of their offending and give them the skills and self-discipline they need to gain employment or training upon release," Grayling said.

"Young people themselves tell me that better education and training would help them get on to the right path and become law-abiding, productive and hardworking citizens."

The scheme is seen as a pilot and could lead to the development of a network of similar institutions. But Labour's shadow justice secretary Sadiq Khan claimed the announcement was an "admission of failure" by Clegg and Grayling because the first college would not be operation until after the next election.

"Education is crucial in reforming criminals but building one new establishment in the future will do little to reduce the reoffending rate across the rest of the country," he said.

"The government has also failed to explain how much their plans will cost nor how they will be funded, leaving fears that other parts of the youth justice budget will be cut to pay for it."

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