Education: Young Offender Institutions

Children, Schools and Families written question – answered on 11th March 2009.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Tim Loughton Tim Loughton Shadow Minister (Children)

To ask the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families what assessment Ofsted has made of standards of education in the juvenile secure estate in the last five years.

Photo of Jim Knight Jim Knight Minister of State (Schools and Learners), Department for Children, Schools and Families, Minister of State (Department for Children, Schools and Families) (Schools and Learners)

This is a matter for Ofsted. HM Chief Inspector, Christine Gilbert, has written to the hon. Member and a copy of her reply has been placed in the Libraries.

Letter from Christine Gilbert, dated 4 March 2009:

Your recent parliamentary question has been passed to me, as Her Majesty's Chief Inspector, for reply.

From 1998 to March 2007, Ofsted inspected standards in education and training in the juvenile estate with Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Prisons. From 1996 to April 2004, Ofsted inspected standards in education and training at local authority secure children's homes and secure training centres with the Social Services Inspectorate; and from April 2004 to March 2007, it did so with the Commission for Social Care Inspection. Since April 2007, Ofsted has had sole responsibility for the inspection of secure children's homes and secure training centres. Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Prisons maintains its lead responsibility for the prison estate.

Prior to April 2007, Ofsted did not publish its own reports on juvenile estate establishments, including secure children's homes and secure training centres, but contributed to the report of the lead inspectorate. Since April 2007, Ofsted has published reports on secure children's homes and secure training centres. Please note that there have only been a small number of inspections annually.

Ofsted provides an annual summary of its assessment of this provision in Her Majesty's Chief Inspectors' Annual Reports. As Ofsted did not publish any of its own reports until 2007, the Annual Reports are the only continuous and comparative form of assessment relating to this area of provision over the past five years.

For the purposes of the following reports, the term 'secure settings' refers to secure children's homes and secure training centres accommodating children and young people under 18 years of age, and other establishments accommodating Juvenile/Young People offenders.

The following excerpts are taken from the Annual Reports of Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Schools 2004/05 and 2005/06, and Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Education, Children's Services, and Skills for 2006/07 and 2007/08.

Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Schools Annual Report 2004/05

The quality of education and care: Provision for children and young people in secure settings

Main Findings

Provision across the range of secure settings and within types of setting varies widely. Some young people are well served; others, already disadvantaged, have a poor deal which does little to help them to improve their life chances. Establishments vary, for example, in the extent of specialist teaching facilities and resources and the range of options available to them. Generally, provision for students to work towards qualifications at level 2 and above is limited.

Out of 10 young offender institutions inspected, two were judged to be very good, six satisfactory and two unsatisfactory. The provision for juveniles (15-17 year-olds) was better than that for young offenders (18-21 year-olds) mainly because they benefited from additional resources for this age group from the Youth Justice Board. The appointment of special educational needs coordinators and learning support assistants has improved initial assessment, the targeting and quality of one-to-one support and the quality of pastoral care for juveniles.

The establishments judged to be very good featured: very good leadership; effective behaviour management, support and guidance; rigorous monitoring of attendance; and effective arrangements for young people unable or unwilling to attend classes. In the poorer establishments, much of the teaching lacked challenge; education, training and residential activities were poorly integrated and accreditation rates were low.

Three of the seven local authority children's homes inspected were good or better; two were satisfactory, but two were unsatisfactory. In the best, there was a strong emphasis on assessing and monitoring students' progress and liaison and support from the local authority were excellent. By contrast, insufficient emphasis on achievement, inadequate quality assurance arrangements and weak links between education and care staff characterised unsatisfactory practice.

Two of the three secure training centres inspected were very good. In these, there were wide opportunities for accreditation, the learning environment was attractive and provision well resourced. By contrast, two detention and immigration centres inspected were poorly resourced and accommodation in one was cramped. Despite these difficulties, teacher-pupil relationships in the centres were good. Pupils were well-behaved, keen to learn and supported each other, particularly in relation to resolving language difficulties.

Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Schools Annual Report 2005/06

The quality of education and care: Provision for young people in secure settings

Main Findings

Overall, standards across the range of secure settings remain too variable and the curriculum offered is often too narrow to meet the needs of the young people. Of 13 institutions inspected, two secure children's homes and one young offender institution are inadequate.

Only one establishment, a secure training centre, is very good and two secure children's homes and one young offender institution are good. There has been an improvement, however, in the management of the young people's behaviour and it is satisfactory overall in the settings inspected. The more effective institutions are successful in meeting the needs of a wide range of young people, many of whom have had little or no experience of educational success. A minority of settings have developed an appropriate range of vocational and academic courses. In these institutions, young people enjoy their education and often make good progress; many experience success for the first time in their lives. However, levels of accreditation remain low in too many institutions and opportunities for progression to more advanced courses are limited. This is particularly pertinent for young people aged 16 and over in young offender institutions. More able young people are often working below their capabilities and few gain GCSE qualifications.

The range of vocational courses is narrow in too many institutions, restricting opportunities for young people to acquire the skills that will help them to gain employment or access to further training on their release from custody. Teaching of the basic skills of literacy and numeracy is often poor. Lessons fail to motivate or engage young people. In the more effective institutions, literacy and numeracy are linked successfully to vocational work and their life experiences.

The needs of young people with learning difficulties and/or disabilities are not always met appropriately. In the better settings, teaching is lively and engaging. Young people are given interesting and challenging tasks that they enjoy. They respond well to good teaching, make sound progress and are justifiably proud of their achievements. The collection of information about the young people's achievements, progress and attendance is improving and is now available to support teaching staff more effectively. However, this information is used effectively in only a small number of institutions. Young people's individual learning plans are not used successfully to plan their work or to monitor their progress.

The more successful settings draw on a variety of resources and external partners to develop creative and interesting educational experiences for young people. External agencies are often effective in raising the young people's aspirations. Most institutions are successful in making the environment as attractive as possible, often in very difficult circumstances. Rewards and incentives are used effectively to motivate young people, but only in a minority of institutions.

In the settings inspected, the management of poor and inappropriate behaviour has improved in recent years and is satisfactory overall. It is good in institutions where the behaviour policy is clearly understood and consistently applied. Relationships between prison and education staff in young offender institutions are generally good. Some aspects of prison life, however, continue to have a negative effect on teaching and learning. For example, movement from residential to education units is often delayed, adversely affecting both punctuality and young people's learning. There are too few opportunities for young people to share their opinions about the education and training they receive.

Arrangements for the care and progress of young people about to leave custody are not good enough. Insufficient attention is paid to preparing them for their return to the community. Careers education and guidance are often poor. The lack of appropriate education and training for these young people once they are released is a real concern.

In most of the settings inspected there has been steady improvement in leadership and management. Senior managers are now more focused on improving the quality of provision. Self-assessment and the rigour of lesson observations have improved.

Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Education, Children's Services and Skills Annual Report 2006-07

Quality and Standards: Educational provision for young people in secure settings

The provision for young people with learning difficulties or disabilities is not always matched to their needs. Staff do not make effective use of individual learning plans in considering the next steps in learning or in tracking the progress of the young people.

The more effective institutions work with a range of external partners to plan challenging and imaginative programmes for learners and to raise their ambitions for the future. Staff in most institutions overcome considerable difficulties to make the accommodation as pleasant as possible through, for example, the imaginative use of learners' artwork. Incentives are generally used well to encourage the young people.

Increasingly, planned educational provision within secure children's homes is contributing to the five outcomes of the Every Child Matters legislation, especially to 'be healthy', with many units aspiring to the Healthy Schools initiative. However, little focus is given to the Every Child Matters agenda for children and young people in young offender institutions. Limited opportunities for release on temporary licence severely inhibit the preparation of young people to gain employment and so to achieve economic well-being on their return to the community.

The management of unacceptable behaviour has improved further in the institutions inspected. Behaviour is good in institutions where the behaviour policy is understood clearly and applied consistently. In young offender institutions, there has been a marked reduction in the number of young people being returned to residential wings from education for poor behaviour. Relationships between prison and residential care staff and education staff across the range of secure accommodation are generally good. Progress in making sure that education and training are given priority within settings is variable.

Too often, security issues inhibit access to appropriate provision for children and young people. There remain some aspects of institutional life which have an adverse effect on the quality of educational provision. For example, moving the young people from residential accommodation to teaching areas often takes too long so that they arrive late and learning time is lost.

The provision for young people about to return to the outside world remains uneven in quality. Not enough is done to help them prepare for their release and there are not enough opportunities for them to access vocational learning or to develop independent living skills. Links between education and resettlement departments are often tenuous. The quality of careers guidance and education is often inadequate. The failure to provide suitable education and training to young people for the community element of their sentences, or upon release, remains a significant concern.

The quality of leadership and management has improved in most of the secure estates inspected. Senior managers now place more emphasis on improving the quality of provision, but in some settings this has not yet resulted in improved outcomes. There is greater rigour in institutional self-assessment and in the evaluation of teaching and learning, but there is still some overestimation of effectiveness.

Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Education, Children's Services and Skills Annual Report 2007/08

Quality and Standards: Educational provision for children and young people in secure settings

Provision of education and training in the four secure training centres was inspected during 2007/08. Of these, education and training are outstanding in one, good in two and satisfactory in the fourth. There were full inspections of seven secure children's homes, of which one is outstanding, three are good and three are satisfactory. There were two full inspections of young offender institutions holding children; both of these institutions are satisfactory.

The improvements reported in last year's Annual Report have been strengthened, especially in the behaviour of children and young people. In most institutions, leadership and management are successful in supporting children's personal and social development. Education in the secure children's homes inspected makes a strong contribution to the Every Child Matters outcomes, with children understanding and following healthy lifestyles and knowing how to stay safe.

On arrival in secure institutions, many children and young people have poor attitudes to learning and experiences of it; indeed, many are unused to participating in structured education of any kind. Behaviour is managed more successfully than in the past and improves quickly. Most behaviour is now good in the institutions inspected. This is achieved most effectively where care staff and teachers collaborate and manage behaviour consistently.

Initial assessment of children's and young people's levels of literacy and numeracy is well established and effective. Nearly all children and young people enter institutions with levels of literacy and numeracy well below those found nationally for their ages. There has been an appropriate emphasis on improving basic skills and children make very good progress when opportunities for improving literacy and numeracy are linked to subjects across the curriculum. Most young people leave custody with some form of accreditation in these essential skills and, more generally, levels of accreditation are now at least satisfactory in most of the institutions inspected.

Teaching and learning are generally best in vocational and practical subjects, where they are consistently at least satisfactory. In the best classes, teachers have high expectations of learners and plan interesting and varied activities. Less successful lessons provide insufficient challenge, the pace is too slow and young people are bored and lose concentration.

The range of vocational provision is too often narrow. Most children and young people have too few opportunities to gain work-related skills that will help them move on to further education, employment or additional training on release. Evening enrichment activities are available in most institutions and, in some cases, the skills gained by young people are accredited through external qualifications. Often, these activities add significantly to their enjoyment of education.

Guidance and support are generally strengths of the sector. Most institutions have effective initial assessment procedures that identify any additional support needs quickly, although this information is not always used well to inform teaching and learning. Children and young people are helped to settle in quickly through good induction procedures. Target-setting and monitoring of progress have improved; they are now generally good and, in a few cases, outstanding. Some secure children's homes have developed a system of weekly tutorials which are used well to review progress. Teaching assistants generally provide effective support but, in a few cases, they are not appropriately qualified and are unsure of their role.

The improvements seen in the last two years in leadership and management are now having a positive impact, especially in the areas of managing behaviour and in guidance and support. Institutions are now producing more evaluative self-assessment reports. Frequently, managers identify the key weaknesses and take decisive action that improves outcomes for young people. Lesson observations by managers are now well established and, in most cases, this has contributed to improvements in teaching and learning. Centres use data more effectively to measure learners' progress and to set challenging targets. Increasingly, institutions are developing procedures to seek the views of the young people and staff, but this is not consistent across the sector. Relationships between care and education staff are generally good, and communication between groups of staff has improved significantly. There is great variation in the quality of resources, especially in terms of accommodation and facilities.

A copy of this reply has been sent to Rt Hon Jim Knight MP, Minister of State for Schools and Learners, and will be placed in the library of both Houses.

Does this answer the above question?

Yes1 person thinks so

No0 people think not

Would you like to ask a question like this yourself? Use our Freedom of Information site.