Review of residential special schools and colleges

The Minister for Vulnerable Children and Families Edward Timpson Department for Education (DfE) is commissioning a review to investigate the experiences and outcomes of children and young people (CYP) in residential special schools and colleges. Dame Christine Lenehan, Director of the Council for Disabled Children is leading the review.

The focus seems to be on:

  • Who, why and how CYP are placed in residential special schools and colleges
  • The pattern of provision across different local authorities and how it is obtained
  • What good quality support is, both pre and post placement
  • Experiences and outcomes and how this can be improved
  • The support provided to placements by all agencies
  • Outcomes – what happens to CYP after the placement comes to an end.

Residential special schools come at a huge cost to Local Authorities (LAs). It is only right that the DfE looks into this thoroughly. But residential placements are not the whole picture. Hopefully the enquiry will look into why residential placements are sought. Sometimes it is because a CYP requires a ‘waking day curriculum; sometimes it is because there is nothing available locally. We have found this to be an increasing problem with young people (YP) over 19 year olds. Under the Children and Families Act 2014, a YP is entitled to continue with their education provided their outcomes have not been met. When looking at outcomes, the case of Buckinghamshire v SJ [2016] UKUT 254 (AAC)clarified that education does not have to mean the acquisition of qualifications but as Judge Jacobs put it in the decision “That does not mean that they do not require or would not benefit from special educational provision”. In this case YP was 18 years. The LA expressed the view that remaining in formal education for a further period would not enable the YP to make any significant progress and / or better achieve the transition to adult outcomes of gaining employment, living independently, participating in his community or maintaining good health. The Upper Tribunal noted that even small achievements could be valuable for the YP in adult life.

Whilst the introduction of the Education, Health and Care Plan introduced provision up to 25 years for YP, it was not matched with funding for extra college places. The result is no suitable places or a shortage of places locally (and possibly also residentially), leading to placements some distance from home and the added expense of residential fees.

Read more about the review here.

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