As a trustee of the National Association for Youth Justice, Edge Hill University lecturer Sean Creaney believes the current custodial system is failing troubled and troublesome children, however ‘secure schools’ are not the solution.

Formed in 1995, the National Association for Youth Justice (NAYJ) is the only UK membership organisation which exclusively campaigns for the rights of and justice for children and young people in trouble with the law.

Following criticism of existing youth custodial settings in a review of the youth justice system by behaviour expert Charlie Taylor, the government has announced the pilot of two ‘secure schools’ where young people will receive tuition in core subjects including English and Maths, as well as having access to apprenticeship schemes to help them find jobs once they are released.

In his report, Taylor found that children who attend custodial institutions were only receiving on average 17 hours of education every week compared to the expected 30 hours.

Sean acknowledges the importance of a good education however he said that many of the children in young offender institutions are not able to respond to traditional teaching methods.

“I welcome the publication of the Taylor report, the government’s response and the acknowledgement that the current custodial system – in particular Young Offender Institutions and Secure Training Centres – is failing children,” said Sean. “Prisons are currently too focussed on discipline and control. They are very ineffective with high levels of re-offending, self-harm and suicide. The use of restraint, searches and segregation all continue to be controversial.

“Earlier this year the BBC Panorama investigation uncovered unnecessary use of force being used on children. They also captured horrific scenes of children allegedly being abused by staff at Medway Secure Training Centre. Rather than build two new ‘secure schools’ instead we need to increase the proportion of spaces available in Secure Children’s Homes (SCH) and place children there” he said. “As stated in our The State of Youth Custody 2016 publication the evidence shows SCH with their caring ethos perform better, especially in relation to reducing offending and improving children’s health and wellbeing. Crucially, the staff-to-child ratios and education levels are much higher.”

Ross Little, Chair of the NAYJ , added

“While we applaud the ambition of Taylor’s proposals and agree with him that most of the current secure estate is not fit for purpose, we believe that investing in secure children’s homes would be a better and simpler idea. It is unclear how the new secure schools will be different to the secure training centres they would presumably replace”.