Construction begins on UK’s first ‘secure school’ for young offenders in Kent in bid to stop reoffending

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Construction begins on UK’s first ‘secure school’ for young offenders in Kent in bid to stop reoffending

Construction has begun on the UK’s first “secure school” where youngsters will be offered “mindfulness” sessions and a strict curriculum in a bid to steer them away from crime.

Justice Secretary Dominic Raab said the “radical” institution being built on the former Medway Secure Training Unit in Kent would help drive down offending among a core of youngsters.

The site is described as a “school within a prison”, where it is hoped a strict routine and core subjects such as English and Maths and vocational subjects can help the young offenders turn their lives around.

The children will have apartment rooms with en-suite showers and televisions instead of cells and access to a sports hall, gym, and football pitch.

Existing youth custody facilities have less focus on education.

Mr Raab said that the number of children in youth custody had decreased from 2,000 to 500 in a decade, more needed to be done.

"We’ve got to do something quite radical and concerted and bold, and that is to make sure they have an environment which is going to be very disciplined and quite exacting,” he said.

"For young people who haven’t properly sat down, gone through a curriculum and spent the day learning this is going to be a big change for them, but if we can support them as well as require them to sit through a school day and learn skills they’ve never learned before, we get the chance to break that cycle.”

The secure school, called Oasis Restore, will be run by the Oasis Charitable Trust which already has 52 academies across five regions of the UK.

Although it is unlike anything Oasis has done before, its founder Steve Chalke said ideally all child custody facilities should be run in a similar way in future.

He said: “The vast majority of young people in custodial care in the justice system are kids who have struggled with life, they’ve been let down, they’ve been abused, they’ve been through traumatic experiences.

"You can’t help somebody by harming them, you can’t take those who have been psychologically wounded through trauma and somehow hope that by punishing them and locking them up for long enough they’ll emerge renewed people, it doesn’t work.”

Earlier this month, the cross-party Public Accounts Committee (PAC) published a report into youth custody provision which concluded the Ministry of Justice’s efforts were "failing children".

Responding to that, Mr Raab said the best thing to do was to “try and do something different for these core, hard-to-reach, stubborn group of young people”.

The school is expected to hold 49 young offenders, with the school becoming operational in 2024.

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