Each room has a shower, toilet, bed, desk for homework and TV/media centre where the youngsters can watch prescribed channels until lock-up at between 9.30pm and 10pm. For disturbed children with “sensory needs”, the screen can stay on with calming images of waterfalls or forests, or low music.
They can lock their own room doors for privacy during the day, though this can be overridden. There are no bars on the windows, which they can open to get fresh air, although there is a fine metal gauze, adapted from mental hospitals, to prevent anyone entering or leaving through it.
Like a public school, there will be three “houses”, to be named on an environmental theme such as river, forest and mountains, each with four “apartments” of two to six bedrooms. There will be dining rooms, lounges and kitchens where they can cook evening meals if not eating in the main restaurant.
‘We are trying to do everything like a home’
Andrew Willetts, the school’s principal, said: “We are trying to do everything like a home. We are creating a space that will function like a family even though we know we are not their parents.”
There is a block with four family rooms – including one with a kitchen, dining room and lounge – where parents and siblings can visit and be entertained by the young offenders.
The children – some of whom may be as young as 12 – will be woken for breakfast at between 7am and 7.30am before their yoga and mindfulness, followed by morning lessons starting at 9am with mathematics and English, in which many are years behind due to early truancy, exclusion and criminality.
They have a choice of 12 vocational subjects in the afternoon from hospitality, construction and agriculture studies to music, art and design before “down-time” in their apartments. Evening activities include music, art and sports such as football, basketball, tennis, cricket and gym.
There will be six-week terms with two week “holidays” where they can do “enrichment “ activities like music, design, sport and Duke of Edinburgh awards. If successful, Oasis sees no reason why they could not do projects like other teenagers in Africa.
Oasis is under contract to put the young offenders on a route to continued training and education in or outside prison as well as setting them up for a career. Its academic success will be judged by Ofsted, the schools watchdog.
Asked if the £36.5 million school could be a model for Britain’s most violent teenagers, Mr Raab said: “I’m open minded but we wouldn’t be putting the investment in if we weren’t confident that we had the right targeted approach.”
Celia Sadie, head of wellbeing, is confident it will. When she introduced yoga to the young offenders at the predecessor Medway secure training centre, she said they leapt at it.
“It went really well once they got over their initial uncertainty and perception it was a middle-aged white ladies thing,” she said. “They actually loved it. There’s quite a good evidence base of it working with children in that physical way.”