Ofsted considers tougher inspection regime for secure training centres

Ofsted wants to change the way it inspects secure training centres, which educate young offenders up to the age of 17.

Run by private companies, the centres provide young people with 30 hours of education and training a week, following a school-day timetable.

There are currently three secure training centres across the country, but none were judged “good” or “outstanding” in the 2017-18 academic year.

Now Ofsted, together with HMI Prisons and the Care Quality Commission (CQC), has proposed changes to the way the centres are inspected, including tougher responses  to any “inadequate” ratings and introducing a new method of surveying the views of the children learning in the centres.

The consultation launched today will gather views on the proposals until August 14.

Schools Week understands that the changes proposed in the secure training centres consultation also anticipate the creation of secure schools and the way they will be inspected. 

Under the proposals, inspections will be simplified to focus on the experiences and progress of pupils and to mirror more closely the structure used for inspections of secure children’s homes. Currently, inspectors have to rate the schools against eight different criteria.

An “inadequate” grading will in future prompt an “urgent review meeting”, involving consultation with the Ministry of Justice to determine the most appropriate action. The agreed action would always involve a follow-up inspection of some kind to ensure that children are safe.

A “point-in-time” survey of children’s views will also be introduced to provide earlier information about what children say about their experiences at the centre. This would replace the current system, in which inspectors carry out an onsite survey just a few days before the full inspection.

England’s three secure training centres are Oakhill in Milton Keynes,  which was rated “inadequate’ last October; Rainsbrook in Willoughby, Warwickshire, which was judged to “require improvement” in August 2017; and Medway in Rochester, which received a “requires improvement” rating in March this year.

The consultation document accepted that while “there have been some recent improvements”, inspection outcomes at all three centres in recent years have “reflected the serious concerns held nationally about the experiences of children and young people at the centres – especially about the behaviour management and the overall safety of children and staff”.

While the proposed changes to the way STCs are inspected are “not designed to ‘raise the bar’”, the consultation document said it is hoped that they will bring greater focus on children’s experiences and progress and less on “processes and procedures” in the inspections.

The proposal also aim to introduce “more consistency” to the way Ofsted looks at the experiences of children in custody.

A revised joint framework and guidance for secure training centres is expected to be published in February 2019, ahead of implementation on April 1, 2019.