Education for young people in custody

About three percent of all children and young people who offend find themselves in custody.

Being in custody, or serving a ‘custodial sentence’, means that a law court has sent you to a secure institution which you cannot leave for a set amount of time, because you have broken the law in some way.

What types of custody are there?

The most common custodial sentence for 12-17 year olds in this country is the Detention and Training Order (DTO).

The DTO is a two-part sentence, served partly in custody and partly under supervision in the community. It can be four months to two years long and involves training and rehabilitation to help prevent you from re-offending.

You could be given a DTO if:

  • The offence you have committed would be punishable with imprisonment if you were aged 21 years or over.
  • The court decides that only a custodial sentence reflects the seriousness of your crime.
  • You are aged 12-15 and are a persistent offender. (If you are 16-17 you might not have to be a persistent offender to get a custodial sentence, if your offence is serious enough).

Where would I serve a custodial sentence?

If you are convicted of a crime and the court decides that you should receive a custodial sentence, you could end up in one of three types of secure institution:

  • A young offender’s institution
  • A secure training centre
  • A secure children’s home.

Where you will be placed depends on lots of factors, including your age, sex, home address and individual needs.

Education in custody

Depending on which type of institution you are placed in, your educational needs will be met in different ways.

The Learning and Skills Council is in charge of education for people in young offender’s institutes and uses FE (further education) and private providers to deliver education.

In secure training centres, the operators (the people in charge of the centre) will use education providers and education staff to teach young people within the institution.

Local Authorities run most secure children’s homes and provide the education themselves or use public, private or voluntary sector providers to deliver education.

What’s changing for children and young people in custody?

Local authorities will soon be responsible for the education of all children and young people in custody. Local authorities are already responsible for the education of children and young people in mainstream education.

These changes mean that children and young people in custody should definitely receive the same standard of education as children and young people in schools and colleges.


Education and training could give you the skills and qualifications you need to succeed once you complete your sentence, making you more likely to get the job you want and less likely to re-offend and end up back in a young offender’s institute or even prison.

Who can help?

You can visit The Children’s Society at The Children’s Society is a charity that helps children and young people who are unable to find the support they need anywhere else.

The Youth Justice Board aims to prevent youth crime and help children and young people. It has lots of helpful advice and information for children and young people, parents and carers and victims of crime:

The Prison Reform Trust works to make sure the prison system is fair and effective for everyone. Visit their site at

You can also visit the National Association for Youth Justice at to find out how this organisation helps children and young people in trouble.

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