Children and young people within the criminal justice system, especially those who have been sentenced or remanded into custody, face particular challenges in relation to accessing education. In Victoria, the education provided within the youth justice precincts is generally recognised as high quality by official reviews as well as by young people themselves. Nevertheless, transition to formal education on exit from custody is challenging.
Our project examined how young people leaving custody in Victoria’s youth justice system can be supported to successfully re-connect with formal education. The study drew on primary data collection from relevant staff, secondary data and policies from the Victorian Department of Education, and guides for transition planning.
The findings highlighted three enablers of successful educational transition from custody: staff roles and responsibilities; information and communication; and programs directly supporting young people. Across these three enablers, the overall conclusions from the project are that:
- The timeline of planning for and supporting successful transition for custody needs to commence early (on entry) and continue well beyond enrolment of the young person in an educational institution.
- Successful transition to education requires a state-wide coordinated system of support and collaboration to help overcome fragmentation, duplication and gaps.
- Young people are the fundamental stakeholder throughout the transition process. They must be given every opportunity to be actively involved in planning and implementing their own transition to education after custody.
Professor Kitty te Riele leads the research portfolio in the Peter Underwood Centre for Educational Attainment, at the University of Tasmania. Her main research focus is on how education can support marginalised young people to improve their life chances. With colleagues in Victoria she has conducted three research projects on ways in which education can support young people in the youth justice system, focused on an education liaison initiative in the Children’s Court; on the school in the youth custody settings; and on transition from custody to education in the community.