The Justice Secretary has today announced that the location of the first Secure School pilot will be the site currently used as Medway Secure Training Centre (STC). The announcement, made at the Conservative Party Conference 2018, included that they are spending £5m on the creation of the secure school, and will be launching the application and selection process later in October. Responding to the announcement, Chair of the Standing Committee for Youth Justice, Ali Wigzell, said:
“The news that Medway STC is to be converted into a secure school is highly disappointing, and sends a troubling message about the government’s commitment to the reform. When Charlie Taylor recommended the creation of secure schools, he was clear they must offer a step change from current custodial provision in order to be effective. Re-purposing Medway STC as a secure school is a far cry from this intention.
The site itself is too far from London – where the majority of children held there are likely to live – to allow for supported reintegration into society. The building is designed to hold more children than we believe suitable for a secure school, and looks and feels far too much like a custodial institution. The thickness of the walls means remodelling to create a school rather than prison ‘feel’ will be difficult.
Medway STC has a long and problematic history that will be difficult to shake off. It is hard to have faith that the government is serious about a new, child-first approach to secure care if they insist on using such an unsuitable institution for the first, and currently only, pilot.”