It’s worth reading yesterday’s Lords debate on educational provision for young people in custody.
This saga has been running for years, fuelled by the specific exclusion of young offenders from any right to education by s562 of the Education Act 1996. Periodically a lobby of NGOs attempts to get s562 repealed; with monotonous regularity, their attempt fails.
A couple of years back, Lord Filkin (Lord Adonis’ predecessor at the DfES) responded to an amendment attempt by saying:
The last thing that I should like to do—and I shall ask my officials to do it—is to at some stage formally organise a workshop with some of the organisations to which the noble Baroness referred so that we can have a serious discussion.
It never happened.
I also thank the noble Lord, Lord Adonis, for sending those taking part in this debate a copy of the consultation document, which I had not seen before. I read it with a sense of déjà vu, because, 10 years ago, as Chief Inspector of Prisons, I started taking Ofsted with me into young offender establishments, writing reports giving all the details that I recognise here and making a whole stream of recommendations about what should happen. I find it rather galling that, 10 years later, we are saying exactly the same thing again.
And on it goes…but at the root of the problem is the lack of a right to education. Until children in prison have that right, nobody can be held to account for the lamentable failures of the current system.