Young offender institutions could be turned into “secure schools” with a greater focus on education, under new plans being considered by ministers.
Prime Minister David Cameron has confirmed the government will explore using the free school process to set up the secure academies for young offenders.
They would provide criminals under the age of 18 years old a “more therapeutic” environment where they would be taught English and maths.
He said: “In short, this will mean turning existing young offender institutions into what will effectively be high-quality schools that will demand the highest standards.”
The proposals are based on the findings of a review of youth justice by former headteacher Charlie Taylor.
The interim findings – due to be published later today – suggest youngsters could be better rehabilitated if education was at the heart of the system.
The report found 40 per cent of youngsters detained in youth offender institutes had not been to school since they were 14 years old.
They were also only receiving 17 hours of education every week – compared to the expected 30.
Mr Taylor said: “Education is important for all children, but for those involved in offending it is vital. We need a resolute focus on giving children in trouble with the law the skills, qualifications and aptitudes to lead successful, law-abiding lives.”
Five youth offender institutions and three secure training centres in England and Wales would be replaced with the secure schools.
Mr Cameron outlined his proposals for a “truly twenty-first century” prison system yesterday.
They included a new social enterprise – chaired by former schools minister David Laws – to develop a new scheme that will recruit high quality graduates to “transform” prisons into places of rehabilitation.
The enterprise would work with headteacher Dame Sally Coates and Teach First, Mr Cameron said.