FOR a young teenager to be taken from their family and placed in a facility where they cannot leave can be a frightening and confusing experience.

But for some children, to be placed in secure accommodation is the only of keeping them safe - or stopping them harming other people.

At the Good Shepherd Centre there are 18 young people, from across Scotland, who are receiving the treatment and care needed to turn their lives around.

And staff there are determined to make sure their troubled teenagers turn into success stories.

Audrey Baird, the deputy head of service, said: "We work across education and core learning with our young people but we do so much more than that too.

"We work on their well being with support staff, cognitive behavioural therapy, drug and alcohol awareness and sexual health - a whole raft of different learning approaches.

"We have an alternative therapist who works with the young people and you see boys, who would never have given massage or reiki the time of day, queueing up for the treatments.

"When new pupils come in they see and sense how hard we expect them to work and how we expect them to behave and that has an almost instant knock-on effect."

To give the centre its full title, the Good Shepherd Secure/Close Support Unit is made up of an 18-bed secure unit, a six-bed Close Support Unit and a three-bed semi-independent unit.

Young people will work their way gradually from secure, to Close Support to the semi-independent "cottage" to try to prepare them for leaving and entering the community.

Those in the centre are either referred through the Children's Hearing System or through the courts, the criminal justice system.

In the secure unit there are three six-bed sections: each is made up of private bedrooms, bathrooms, a kitchen where they are allowed to prepare certain meals, and a main communual area.

Three three units are bright and airy and each has its own individual style.

Staff do not enter young peoples' bedrooms, instead there is a hatch and window on the outside of each room.

The rooms also have lockers where anything deemed "dangerous" - a hairdryer, say, for the chord; or toiletries, for the chemicals - must be stored and only accessed with permission.

Audrey said: "We allow the young people to have a say in decorating the living areas - especially their own bedrooms.

"It gives them ownership over where they are staying if they are allowed to choose the paint colour and put their own stamp on it."

One of the units is an "assessment unit" where young people stay when they are first admitted to the Good Shepherd.

Of the other two, one is a short-term unit and the other long-term.

Children here will have had drug and alcohol problems, chaotic home lives, underage sexual relationships or been carrying out criminal behaviour.

There is a specific language to being in care: a child doesn't go to school, they engage with eduction. They don't go swimming, they access leisure facilities. They don't misbehave, they are outwith parental control. They don't meet their family, they have contact. They don't talk, they express a view.

Staff try their best to make coming in to such a tightly controlled environment as unintimidating as possible - but it can be difficult.

Teenagers are brought by car or van directly from children's hearings.

Before the hearing they will know that secure accommodation is an option the children's panel will consider but they will only find out in the hearing what the panel has decided - then the move is immediate and swift.

At the back of the centre is a large garage with roller doors where the security van or social worker's car can drive straight in to the facility.

The walls are painted with scores of pink flowers - a throwback to when the centre was girls-only - to try to make the area seem inviting.

They are then brought through to a room where they may say goodbye to family members before being assessed and admitted to the unit.

Audrey added: "We try to make that as smooth as possible but, of course, it's a shock to the young person and it takes a period of adjustment."

In school, young people are given a wide choice of subjects - both academic and vocational - and it is vital to staff that they achieve while in the centre.

Art and creativity, Audrey says, is particularly important. The school's art room is packed with high quality work and pupils get to express themselves through music and writing as well.

The classrooms are just like those in a mainstream school, until you notice the security locks on the doors.

Teaching assistants, teachers and care staff all have walkie-talkies strapped to their belts and security cards.

They are locked into classrooms with the pupils and young people must be accompanied when they need to walk anywhere, even just to the bathroom.

The class changeover between periods is called "movement" and is closely monitored.

Audrey says the young people's day is as close as possible to a normal school day.

She said: "For a young person every day is essentially a normal routine - they prepare for school and have a full curriculum.

"When we opened in 2006 we wanted our young people to get exactly the same education as in a mainstream school."

The facility has good links with local colleges and, for young people who are able, they will go out on college placements or even work placements.

They also take part in schemes such as the Duke of Edinburgh Awards.

The Care Inspectorate puts the centre, in Bishopton, under the microscope every six months.

Grades have been rated at all excellent levels for the third inspection in a row with inspectors saying the centre is constantly looking for ways to improve.

The Good Shepherd also achieved two "excellent" and three "very good" grades from Education Scotland at its last inspection - higher than many mainstream schools.

Education experts were full of praise for the centre, with a report reading: "Young people's outstanding progress in developing skills for learning life and work."

"All young people are aware of their rights as individuals and know the rules and boundaries established by the service.

"As a consequence, the atmosphere in care and education is calm and settled and young people's behaviour is generally good.

"All young people attain an impressive range of good qualifications even though they are often placed in the Good Shepherd for short and indeterminate periods.

"During the inspection, we identified aspects of innovative practice which we would like to explore further in order to share the practice with others."

Audrey added: "We're very proud of our successes.

"Young people very quickly come to think, 'I don't need to act out here, I don't need to misbehave.'

"There is a form of peer pressure here that is positive - the moment they see their peers engaging positively in education then they follow suit.

"We care about our education and we care about our environment and we hope to instil in our young people that they should too."

TOMORROW we speak to three young people whose lives have been changed by the Good Shepherd Centre.