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Youth Justice Minister Phillip Lee recently announced that the first two new educational establishments for young offenders could be up and running by 2019.

Dr Lee made the announcement in an appearance before the Justice Select Committee late last year. He also said that, if the pilot proved successful, the secure schools concept could be rolled out nationally within 10 years.

"I guess we probably need to give it at least a year, if not a couple of years before we can actually conclude that they are successful...," said Dr Lee. "If they are successful, I would hope that over the next 10 years or so, because it will take time, we will replace everything with secure schools."

As reported in this previous blog post, the plan for developing secure schools was originally announced by the then Justice Secretary, Liz Truss, in December 2016. The Government was responding to recommendations in a review of the Youth Justice System (YJS) by child behavioural expert and former head teacher, Charlie Taylor.

The Taylor Review proposed that young offender institutions (YOIs) and secure training centres (STCs) should be replaced by smaller secure schools situated in the regions that they serve. These would be set up, run, governed and inspected as schools, drawing on the expertise and experience of outstanding alternative provision schools (which provide education for children and young people who are unable to go to mainstream schools) and have greater freedoms for their head teachers to recruit staff and commission services. The aim is to create an environment where young people feel able to engage with care, health and education services and make good social, health and educational progress. This should relieve pressure on those in probation jobs, substance misuse jobs and especially youth offending jobs.

The number of first time entrants to YJS in England and Wales fell by 85% in the 10 years up to March 2017. However, the reoffending rate increased by four per cent to 42.2%. That compares with a reoffending rate for adults of 28.2%.

Recent research has shown that access to good quality education while in custody can reduce reoffending rates. In 2014 the Government introduced new contracts for YOIs to guarantee young people in custody a minimum of 30 hours of education per week. However, the Taylor Review found that, on average, the reality was only 15 hours.

"Education is vital to breaking the cycle of crime, as with knowledge and skills young people and young adults can create a future for themselves," wrote youth reoffending expert Christopher Cyrus in his foreword to Great Expectations, a report published in September 2016 by the Prisoners' Education Trust. "If individuals can be supported to find their passion and then gain the education to pursue it, we will have a system that enables real change."
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