Where are we going? Context and directions for policy and practice in children’s education and learning in prison




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Peer reviewed



In recent years there has been a considerable amount of policy attention, rhetoric and review focussed on the subject of education in prison, including children’s education. For example, the Coates Review, undertaken by Dame Sally Coates and – more relevant to our focus on children - the Taylor Review, by Charlie Taylor. Both were commissioned by the same justice secretary (Michael Gove) and published in 2016. Since then, high-level political attention has been turned elsewhere and the Justice Secretary has moved, but there remains some government focus on making changes and improvements, including via the reformed Youth Justice Board (YJB). This chapter considers the contemporary context for children’s education and learning in criminal justice custodial environments, particularly the ‘secure estate’ comprising Young Offender Institutions (YOIs), Secure Training Centres (STCs) and Secure Children’s Homes (SCHs). Reference will also be made to proposals relating to ‘Secure Schools’. As noted elsewhere in this book, the ways and means by which children can be subject to custodial detention in England and Wales are many and varied. This complexity is not well appreciated; even for those working within the sector, its diversity can make it difficult to appreciate the different forms of custody, and the routes into them, beyond the forms one is most familiar with. Here, the work of Hales and Warner (2017) is important in understanding the different ways that children can be locked in and detained under one of three main types of legislative mechanism: criminal legislation, mental health legislation and the Children Act 1989 (Secure Welfare Placement). They identify a further four types of ‘secure care’ unit detaining children: High Dependency Unit (HDU), Psychiatric Intensive Care Unit, Low Secure Hospital and Medium Secure Hospital. As noted above, this chapter refers to education in criminal justice settings (YOIs, STCs and SCHs). As noted elsewhere in this book Secure Children’s Home can take both welfare and justice placements. This chapter does not deal with the mental health and welfare placements.



Youth justice, education, children, prison, secure estate


Little, R. (2018) Where are we going? Context and directions for policy and practice in children’s education and learning in prison. In: Evans, K., Gallard, D. and Millington, J. (eds) Children and their education in secure accommodation. Abingdon: Routledge.


Research Institute

Institute for Research in Criminology, Community, Education and Social Justice