Transforming Youth Custody 2013

‘Transforming youth custody’ – Putting education at the heart of detention1

This consultation paper announced the government’s aim to ‘put education at the heart of detention’ for young offenders in young offender institutions, secure training centres and local authority secure children’s homes, with custodial institutions becoming ‘Secure Colleges’. The government proposed to bring in new providers of education within custodial institutions for young people, including free schools and academies.

It was followed in January 2014 by Transforming Youth Custody: Government response to the consultation, Cm 8792 (available online at:

This confirmed the government’s intention to legislate to create Secure Colleges, ‘a new generation of secure educational establishments where learning, vocational training and life skills will be the central pillar of a regime focused on educating and rehabilitating young offenders’. The government also announced plans for a 320-place ‘pathfinder’ Secure College to be purpose-built in the East Midlands and to be opened in 2017, and to invite educationalists and others to compete to run it.

If the pathfinder Secure College proved successful, the long-term intention was to transform replace all young offender institutions and secure training centres and many secure children’s homes with a small number of large Secure Colleges serving the major regions of England and Wales. This was expected to be significantly cheaper than the current £100,000 per annum average cost of a place in youth custody. Secure Colleges were to accommodate young people aged 12–17 years. It was anticipated that there will still be some separate specialist secure provision for the ‘very youngest’ (presumably aged 10 and 11) and ‘most vulnerable’ young people in custody.

The necessary legislative changes were contained in the Criminal Justice and Courts Act 2015.2

The government also announced plans for a 320-place ‘pathfinder’ Secure College to be purpose-built in the East Midlands (at a cost of £85m) and to be opened in 2017. However, the plan to build a ‘pathfinder’ Secure College in the East Midlands failed to win Treasury approval before the 2015 General Election, and in July 2015 new Justice Secretary Michael Gove confirmed that it would not go ahead.

A further Review of the Youth Justice System in England and Wales was commissioned, led by educationalist Charlie Taylor. This report recommended that youth custody was transformed into Secure Schools (available online at:

In the Government’s response, they committed to open two Secure Schools, one in the North and one in the South (available online at:

A Secure Schools Vision was published (available online at: This envisaged 6-070 place units that would offer integrated health, care and education services. They were distinguished from the previous Secure College concept, which was described as prisons with education.

Legislative provision was made in The Children’s Homes (England) (Amendment) Regulations 2018. The first competition was launched in October 2018. In July 2019, it was announced that the Oasis Charitable Trust, an educational trust that operates over 50 academy schools, was awarded the contract for the first Secure School. This is scheduled to open on the site of Medway Secure Training Centre in Kent, following a £5 million refurbishment programme, offering up to 64 places for boys and girls aged between 12 and 17.


2 Summary available elsewhere on this website.