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Secure Schools

Volume 648: debated on Wednesday 31 October 2018

Today, I am publishing guidance on “How to Apply to Run a Secure School” launching the provider selection process for the first school. This follows our acceptance of, and commitment to delivering Charlie Taylor’s secure schools proposal in December 2016 and the Secretary of State’s announcement on 2 October 2018 of the site for the first secure school.

In the Government response to Charlie Taylor’s review, we committed to tackling violence and improve outcomes for children in custody. By creating the first secure school, we are taking a major step towards delivering a truly reformed youth custodial estate that is fit for purpose, characterised by the principles set out in the Taylor review. That is:

child-focused providers

strong leaders with freedom and autonomy

a specialised workforce offering bespoke provision for individual children that has education, health, care and physical activity at its heart.

Secure schools will be run by academy trusts, not-for-profit organisations that are limited by guarantee. With secure schools, we want to place education and health at the heart of youth custody and create a therapeutic environment for the children in our care. It is imperative that the successful provider is driven to work with children in crisis.

We have worked in partnership with the Departments for Education and Health and Social Care, as well as NHS England, to achieve a truly cross-governmental commitment and approach to reforming youth justice. We have also engaged wholeheartedly with a wide range of stakeholders, and this has enabled us to benefit from insightful feedback from experts across the youth justice and education sectors. This means we can confidently say that the secure schools model is shaped by best practice and what we know really works.

We know that children in custody display a wide range of complex needs, so it is crucial that we provide the right type of education, support and care to address those needs. By empowering secure school providers to make key decisions, like being able to set and adapt the curriculum and timetable to provide meaningful activities, we can offer a bespoke service that best meets each child’s individual needs.

Giving providers the autonomy necessary to deliver services in an innovative way is a key part of the secure schools vision, but they will also be subject to a high level of accountability to ensure appropriate safeguards are in place. We are working closely with Ofsted and the Care Quality Commission to establish the inspection regime for secure schools, and this will be supplemented by monthly independent visitor reviews and independent oversight from organisations such as the local safeguarding children’s board.

We agree with the importance that David Lammy’s review on the treatment of, and outcomes for, black, Asian and minority ethnic individuals in the criminal justice system places on addressing disproportionality in the youth justice system. With Charlie Taylor’s vision of seeing the child first and the offender second, we want secure schools to enable all students, including those from black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds, to have trust in the system and be able to access the meaningful support they need to make sure their offending does not continue into adulthood.

The decision has been taken to close Medway and reopen it as a secure school. Delivering the first secure school at this site will provide a fresh start for youth custodial provision in the south-east and ensure that provision remains in place in this crucial area of demand. The closure will enable us to set up the first school as quickly and cost-effectively as possibly, and it is a first step towards our future vision for youth custody. I would like to pay tribute to the hard work of staff whose work over the last two years has resulted in improvements for people living and working at Medway. These were recognised in a recent Ofsted report, which praised the care and consideration given by staff to improving Medway.

Secure school academy trusts will be funded in line with the terms set out in a funding agreement. They must adhere to this agreement and to the academies financial handbook. Academies are also subject to company law which requires that they have clear published frameworks for accountability. They are also subject to a system of independent audit of their accounts however secure schools will be subject to greater financial oversight.

The how to apply guidance is available at: