In 1997 in the UK, New Labour (the alternative branding of the Labour Party) swept to power and proceeded to make some rather hasty changes to the youth justice system in England and Wales, including the development of Youth Offending Teams and a new non-departmental government body, the Youth Justice Board (YJB), designed to coordinate the new youth justice system. Recently, it has been acknowledged by some that these changes have not resulted in a 'better' system. The paper outlines how the training of 'youth justice practitioners' reflects the bigger picture of central control, the pursuit of a contested 'what works' agenda, and managerialism. It explores the consequent impact of this approach on the rights of children caught up in the youth justice system as seen through the lens of the power–knowledge nexus. This is followed by a broader examination of the necessary theoretical foundations upon which such teaching and learning in the youth justice field might be placed with reference to Nellis' 'overarching' and 'underpinning' knowledge developed in the context of the Probation Diploma. Finally, some tentative recommendations are made, concluding with some potential challenges. These include the consequent impact these challenges might have on improving children's rights and reducing the use of custody for children in the criminal justice system.