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New Secure School set to reduce crime

Serious young offenders are to be turned away from gangs and knife crime through rigorous education and training at the UK’s first Secure School.

Image courtesy Ministry of Justice

Prisons and Probation Minister Edward Argar visited the school in Rochester, Kent, yesterday to see how this new approach to youth justice will turn young offenders into law-abiding adults when it opens in the coming weeks.

Thanks to sustained efforts by this government to tackle crime by children, there has been an 82% drop in the number of young offenders in youth custody since 2010.

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However the few hundred children left have complex needs, such as serious mental health problems and poor education, and have often committed serious offences.

Oasis Restore Secure School will put education and healthcare at the heart of steering young offenders away from gangs and knife crime.

The design is based on international research which shows that smaller settings, high-quality education and healthcare, plus a specialised workforce of teachers and youth workers are the key to successfully turning the lives of young people in custody around.

This new approach was recommended by the now Chief Inspector of Prisons, Charlie Taylor, who conducted a wholesale review of youth justice while chair of the Youth Justice Board.

Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice, Alex Chalk, said: "This multimillion-pound investment marks a major step change in our approach to youth detention.

"By prioritising intensive education, this Secure School will put the rehabilitation of young offenders front and centre, helping to break the cycle of crime."

The Secure School will be home to up to 49 children at any one time – both boys and girls - and every young offender will be enrolled in formal education or training and encouraged into further study or secure employment on release.

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Staff will be trained to offer one-to-one learning support and they will set challenging targets in core academic subjects such as English and Maths. Ofsted inspectors will hold the establishment to the same standards as all other schools and secure children’s homes nationwide, ensuring the highest possible standards.

Young offenders will also be trained in workshops designed to give them the qualifications necessary to go straight into employment or further study on release, including barbering, design technology and catering.

Placement decisions will be made internally by the Youth Custody Service in the usual way, subjected to thorough risk assessments and with safety at the forefront of the process.

Young people will be supervised by highly trained staff and the secure site has the same rigorous security procedures as other custodial settings for children.

The Rev Steve Chalke MBE, Founder of Oasis, said: "Oasis Restore represents a revolution in youth justice – a revolution that’s built on both science and experience.

"The core principle behind the Secure School and the work of our staff team is an unshakeable commitment to the belief that the only way to create positive change for the young people we serve, as well as to make our streets and communities safer, is to ensure that restoration sits at the very heart of the youth custodial system. That is our privilege and our task."

The school’s core focus on getting troubled young people into jobs or further education is part of the government’s ambitious plan to drive down reoffending.

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