Re-Engaging Young Offenders with Education and Learning in a Secure Custodial Context

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This Chapter illustrates how re-engaging young offenders with education and learning whilst in custody can be transformative, given the right conditions. Re-engagement efforts need to respond to the nature of disengagement in young offenders which was found to be characterised by heightened and exacerbated emotions and shaped by their relationships with staff and peers. The Chapter begins by providing a background and context of the education of young offenders before outlining the research. A discussion of the conditions needed to be met for successful re-engagement, with a particular focus on the facilitators and barriers, is presented. This is followed by implications for practice, emphasising the need for flexibility in the structures of the secure setting which can result in considerable benefits for effective re-engagement.

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As many as 90 % of incarcerated children and young people enter the secure setting disengaged from education. The nature of the secure custodial setting compounds the complex and challenging needs of the children, though efforts to understand this are limited. This paper reports on an ethnographic case study in one secure children’s home in England. Findings show that children can be re-engaged with education, relatively easily within a short space of time, given the right conditions. However, the secure setting was a defining feature, shaping the extent of this engagement. The implications of these findings are discussed and recommendation made.
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