Government to trial 'fortified school' concept in an attempt to reduce rate of teenage reoffenders

Secure college will house up to 320 young troublemakers

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The Independent Online

The Government is to build the country's first "fortified school" where hundreds of young criminals will receive intensive education and training in an attempt to reduce the "sky high" reoffending levels among teenage offenders.

It will also set out plans to more than double the amount of time all young offenders have to spend in the classroom or workshop.

Lessons in the secure college, which house up to 320 young troublemakers aged between 12 and 17, will focus entirely on their rehabilitation as well as providing them with a strong sense of discipline, ministers said. It will be built by 2017 on land next to Glen Parva prison in Leicestershire.

The number of children behind bars in England and Wales is falling and currently stands at just over 1,300, a drop of about 200 over the last year. But reoffending rates remain stubbornly high, with almost three quarters of young offenders returning to crime after their release.

Nick Clegg, the Deputy Prime Minister, and Chris Grayling, the Justice Secretary, will detail moves to require all youngsters in custody to spend around 25 hours a week in education, training or acquiring work skills.

That compares with the current average of 12 hours, and some young criminals receive as little as five hours' education a week despite widespread problems with literacy among offenders.

Mr Clegg said: "Criminals can't go unpunished, but young people who have made mistakes and committed crime can’t simply be left on the scrapheap. If we expect them to turn their lives around, we have to put their time inside to good use.

"The Coalition has reduced the number of young people in custody. But reoffending is sky high in this country and the answer lies in education and opportunity to change."

Youngsters held at the college will have to follow an individual learning plan which will continue after their release.

According to the most recent figures, 71 per cent of teenagers re-offended within a year of leaving custody, compared with 46 per cent of adult prisoners.

Mr Grayling said: "Clearly the system as it is at the moment isn't working.

"It's right the most serious or persistent young offenders face custody but we must use this time to tackle the root cause of their offending and give them the skills and self-discipline they need to gain employment or training upon release."