The strategy behind the secure school structure
How do you define the 'secure school' strategy? Source: Edvin Johnansson/Unsplash

Acting as a second chance for young offenders in youth prisons, the UK’s first secure school will open next year in Kent.

Built for any boy or girl aged 12 to 17 who are remanded or sentenced to youth detention accommodation, the secure school supplies an educational rehabilitation that helps get the lives of young people back on track.

Rather than cast them away to a youth prison/detention centre, young people are encouraged to sit for exams and complete the expected hours of education to ensure that they don’t fall back in their academic pursuits.

Rewinding back to the release of the Review of the Youth Justice System in England and Wales in 2016, a number of surprising statistics were revealed.

To many readers’ dismay, it was found that children in public sector offender institutions received an average education of just 15 hours a week, compared with the regular 30 hours.

“Staff shortages and rising levels of violence have prevented this ambition from being delivered, and in some cases, children must sacrifice time spent associating with their peers if they are to attend classes,” notes the report.

Additionally, the report analyses the teaching methods used within the youth justice systems across England and Wales.

“They have not kept pace with changes in our schools…I have serious concerns about the teaching of reading. Many teachers I have spoken to in custody were not able to describe how reading is taught in their establishment. Children in custody should be taught to read using phonics, and every teacher working in custody must understand how it is taught if they are to play their part.”

But the introduction of the first secure school in the UK aims to support students’ well-being with stricter teachers, as well as a tested measure of academic progress and overall school environment.

Appointed by the Ministry of Justice and currently running 52 academies across England, Oasis Charitable Trust is set to manage the first ever secure school on the site of the Medway secure training centre.

In a news release by the charity, Reverend Steve Chalke MBE, Founder and Leader of Oasis states, “We believe in second chances. We have no greater purpose than offering restoration to those who have experienced exclusion.

“Over the past 35 years, we have learnt that as we treat every human being as of unique value -recognising their intrinsic worth and potential – real, radical and lasting change is possible,” Chalke adds.

Striving for change and second chances, the secure school certainly appears to be a proactive alternative to youth prisons, especially as the report’s featured detention centres only provide a limited number of education hours to their students.

However, with the detailed sketch of how the secure school plans to operate out of sight, it will be interesting to see how this academic alternative develops and how effective it turns out to be.

If successful, 2020 will be an empowering year for both youth custody services and the UK education sector.

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