Press Release: Government Review seeks to put education at the heart of the youth custodial estate

25 Jan 2016

Charlie Taylor, who is leading a review of the youth justice system for Justice Secretary Michael Gove, will speak at an event organised by Prisoners’ Education Trust on Monday 25th January.

Taylor is expected to say:

“We know that many young offenders have been out of school for considerable periods of time and therefore have low levels of attainment. It is essential that we continue to focus on the quality of education within the secure estate in order that we give children the skills and knowledge they need to thrive when they are released.”

Speakers and attendees, which will include seventy academics and practitioners, will discuss ideas to improve learning outcomes for young people in custody.

Dr. Di Hart who has recently returned from a Winston Churchill Travel Fellowship looking at international approaches to young people in custody was impressed with the Spanish model after visited Diagrama’s secure units for young people:

In Spain I saw judges fully involved in the rehabilitation process, paying regular visits to the young people they had sentenced to monitor their progress. There is also a system of phased release which allowed young people to re-build links with their families and encouraged them to access education in the community ready for when they are released.

Frontline staff at Diagrama go into the classroom with the young people and are fully involved with all their activities, building relationships with them the whole time. The young people are getting a really good education in the broadest sense’

At the event, which is focused on identifying challenges and solutions, Dr. Di Hart will also say:

It’s about going back to basics, asking the big questions about what custody is for and what will work to help young people to transform their lives. In comparison to the approaches taken in Spain, Finland and parts of the US, our use of custody in England and Wales looks very process driven and lacking in vision.”  

Since 2010/11, there have been 51 per cent fewer young people coming into the Youth Justice System and 40 per cent fewer young people (under 18) in custody[1]. However, those young people in custody now have more complex needs and more serious offending backgrounds. In terms of education;

  • 18% of sentenced young people in custody have a statement of Special Educational Needs (compared to 3% of general population).
  • Of 15-17 year olds entering Young Offenders Institutes (YOIs) 88% of young men and 74% of young women have been excluded from school at some point.
  • 36% of young men and 41% of young women were aged under 14 when they last attended school.[2]

New education contracts, which began last summer, doubled the hours of learning in Young Offender Institutions in a welcome effort to put education at the heart of the youth estate. However PET’s Head of Policy, Nina Champion, says more needs to be done:

“Nearly three quarters (73%) of young people leaving Young Offenders Institute’s go on to re-offend with the financial costs and harm to individuals and communities this brings. We also know that only 38% of young people enter school or college after custody. We welcome the reduction in numbers of young people in custody and the Government’s focus on education.

Education must be defined in its broadest sense and seek to address the social, emotional, psychological and learning needs of children in custody and after release. In order for young people to be able to concentrate on education, the environment must be safe and urgent action needs to be taken to tackle increasing violence and self harm.”

Other experts speaking at the event include:

Angus Mulready-Jones, Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Prisons HMIP Lead Inspector for Children in Detention

Dr Caroline Lanskey from the University of Cambridge

Seamus Oates Executive Head of the Bridge Alternative Provision and member of the Youth Justice Board (YJB)

Junior Smart, PET alumnus and founder of SOS Gangs Project at St. Giles Trust.

Editor's Notes

For interviews with speakers, photos or further information please contact Nina Champion (PET), Head of Policy:; 020 3752 5680 / 0780 3011358.

Further event details:

About Us

Since 1989, Prisoners’ Education Trust (PET) has supported prisoners to engage in rehabilitation through learning. The charity does this by providing advice and funding for approximately 2,000 people per year for distance learning courses in subjects and levels not generally available in prisons. PET also carries out research, informed by prisoner learners, to improve prison education policies.


[2] Murray, 2012 – HMIP Self Report Survey.