February 2017 Briefing: Residential Special Schools review

Read all about the goverment’s review of residential special schools and updates on apprenticeships, selective education and upcoming consultations.

Dear friends

We are expecting a busy year with more SEN reforms on the horizon. On Jan 28th an independent review of residential special school provision was announced. This comes three days after publication of the Department of Health’s report “These Are Our Children”, a critical review of education, care and treatment of young people with complex needs placed in mental health inpatient care.

The report, by Christine Lenehan of the Council for Disabled Children (CDC), is critical of the education, health and social care system which fails many young people with learning difficulties and autism trapped and warehoused in NHS mental health provision. It also criticised residential special school provision, which has been welcomed by ALLFIE, and as a result the Department of Education has now commissioned Christine Lenehan to lead this further review of residential special education.

Despite the criticism of segregated services, both the report and current review stop short of asking whether residential special school settings are needed in the first place and whether they can ever promote disabled children’s rights to inclusive education and family life. The “Lenehan review of experiences and outcomes in residential special schools and colleges” is calling for evidence about the role rather than the continuation of residential special school provision. So ALLFIE will be putting forward an argument as to why residential special school settings are part of the problem rather than the solution in preventing the warehousing of disabled adults into long term institutional care.

The deadline for submitting a response to the review is the 17th March 2017 and, with your help, we will be gathering evidence to present a watertight case for the phasing out of such schools. You can read the full document here.

Please do support us! We are not alone…

In solidarity

Simone Aspis

(Policy and Campaigns Coordinator)


Background to the Independent Review of Residential Special Schools

CDC’s “These Are Our Children” – key findings

These Are Our Children”, Christine Lenehan’s review of hospital and residential school provision for children with complex needs, followed highly critical cases of young people being abused and mistreated within assessment & treatment units.

Its major findings are:

  • 40% of young people with learning difficulties will experience significant psychiatric conditions compared with 10% of those without learning difficulties.
  • Young people’s placement in NHS inpatient care happens as a consequence of gaps in local education, health and care provision that would have been provided by local authorities (LAs).
  • Mainstream mental health and behavioural support services did not feel they have the right skills to work with disabled young people with complex needs.
  • There is a reliance on the market to provide bespoke services and support.
  • Young people are trapped in NHS inpatient care because of LAs’ failure to plan for post placement.
  • Residential special school placements are used as a last resort when the young person’s behaviour becomes too challenging for them to live at home within their own local community, in the absence of appropriate and timely SEN provision within the local school and out of hours support arranged by the local authority.
  • Many disabled young people are transfers from other forms of residential care (including residential special schools) into NHS psychiatric inpatient care.
  • Lenehan found that despite times of austerity and major cuts in local services, the state can fund a 3 year mental health inpatient placement to the tune of £1 million.

Contrary to the belief that residential school was a positive parental choice, the report found that pupil placement was often a means of diverting a crisis.

“A number of our group of children end up in residential special schools as a last resort and there are real concerns about the level of professional health support available from psychiatrists, psychologists etc in that setting….The concerns arose from placements of children made at crisis point, into services which were not adequately skilled or staffed to effectively meet the level of need. Additionally, concerns were raised around the challenge of admissions from schools into both inpatient children’s units and to adult inpatient settings, possibly accounting for the bulge in placements between 18 and 25.”

The report also cites the following story and comments:

“A senior manager reflected on a panel which had been pleased to agree a solution for an 11 year old which involved him living full time in a residential school a long way from home. ‘It can’t be right, can it?’ he said and the answer is no, it can’t. We wouldn’t make that decision for a child without these needs; it would not be seen as acceptable.”

The Department for Education has now commissioned Christine Lenehan to undertake an independent review of residential special school settings as a result of the critical feedback on such provision.

ALLFIE’s view

ALLFIE welcomes Lenehan’s conclusion that young people’s time in residential special school and mental health inpatient services can be harmful and lead onto long stay institutional care. We were very disappointed that all the recommendations are focused on improving the alignment and coordination of education, care and treatment services within segregated settings for young people through better working relationships between multi-agency professionals and families, and are based on the assumption of a continued role for residential special school placements despite such settings being part of the problem rather than the solution. We would have expected recommendations to be focused on preventing young people from being admitted to these institutions in the first place by providing great local services and support that enable disabled children and young people to experience inclusion throughout their childhood.

Take action

As part of our Educate Don’t Segregate campaign we need you to take action against the Government’s assumption that residential special schools still have a place in promoting equality and inclusion of disabled pupils and students.

There are two suggested ways you can help:

1. Responding to the Lenehan review of experiences and outcomes in residential special schools and colleges

Whilst ALLFIE will be giving its own submission to the independent review, it is crucial that the Government receive lots of responses that put the case for triggering the end of segregated education by stopping the funding of residential special school placements to the tune of £100k per pupil.

The web link is:

Whilst the review includes specific questions for parents, children and young people on page 5, they are based on the assumption of improving residential special school provision.

The main part of the review covers eight questions around pupils’ characteristics and what good quality support would look like provided by different agencies in and outside the residential special school setting, alongside current commissioned provision. In addition, the review wants to know why young people are admitted to such schools and what their outcomes are.

Here are some tips that will help you to put forward a convincing argument. We suggest that you respond to the following questions asked by the review:

  • How and why these children and young people come to be placed in residential special schools and colleges.

TIP: highlight NO choice of mainstream education and family support services, including the struggle for and lack of forthcoming support services such as early intervention, children and young people’s mental health services and SEN provision needed to support you or your child to live at home.

TIP: LA policy on funding residential special school placements for children with complex needs and impact upon the availability of local inclusive education provision and wrap around support (if known).

  • The experiences and outcomes of these children and young people and their families, and how these can be improved.

TIP: this is your opportunity to share a story about your own or your child’s experience of being placed in a residential special school setting.

Highlight the impact that segregation has had upon developing a strong self-identity and preparation for participating within mainstream education, training and employment opportunities;

relationships with family, local community and existing friendships, your or the child’s mental health and general wellbeing, your or the child’s experience of mistreatment and abuse that took place.

TIP: When talking about improvement to young people’s experience and outcomes, highlight the need to focus on developing great local inclusive education provision and the support services and opportunities that should be made available locally.

  • Destinations of Children

Tip: how did life turn out for you or your child after leaving residential special education, and how did the experience of residential special education affect this?

Please email by March 1st if you want your story to be included in our submission.

Or respond by email directly to the review

Please send your responses by the deadline of 17th March 2017 to

If you need any help with responding to the review please do not hesitate to contact us. 

2. Media Campaign Work

ALLFIE has begun to receive national media coverage since the publication of the review. View articles and letters published by Disability News Service and the Times Education Supplement and listen to our interview on Radio 5 Drive. ALLFIE has asked the Department for Education to release the numbers of disabled pupils and students with special educational needs attending residential special schools for the past three years under freedom of information requests. We want to know whether there is an upward trend of placing disabled children into residential special school provision.

We need you to write a letter to your local authority

We would like to know whether there are any local trends in local authority commissioning of residential special school provision.

You can write the following suggested letter addressed to the local authority’s department dealing with freedom of information requests. Please either email or post us any reply from the local authority.

[Postal Date]

[Your address]

To Whom It May Concern

I am making a freedom of information request for the following information about disabled and special educational needs pupils from the local authority area placed by the local authority in residential special schools.

Total number of pupils placed by the local authority at a residential special school for Jan 2014, Jan 2015, Jan 2016 and Jan 2017.

Total number of these pupils who are boarders at residential special school for Jan 2014, Jan 2015, Jan 2016 and Jan 2017.

This information is not captured in the SEN annual statistics published by the Department for Education.

I look forward to receiving an answer within 20 working days.

Yours sincerely



Update on the Government’s proposals on selective education in “Schools That Work for Everyone”

ALLFIE is amongst hundreds of organisations and individuals who responded to the Government consultation on “Schools That Work for Everyone”.

See ALLFIE’s response at

On the final day of submission ALLFIE had a letter published in the Daily Telegraph followed by a BBC Kent News radio interview on how selective school proposals will discriminate against disabled children and young people.

We are expecting a Government formal response sometime during spring! So watch this space for our continued campaign activity.

We want to say a big thank you to everyone who has helped us with our successful Education not Segregation social media campaign. It has not only raised our social media profile, but we have been gaining momentum and support from politicians. Angela Rayner (Shadow Secretary of State for Education), John Pugh (Liberal Democrat Education Lead) and Jonathan Bartley (Green Party co-leader) have lent their full support for ALLFIE’s campaign. Watch their videos on our Facebook page.

We are keen for cross-party support – if you know of a Conservative MP who wants to speak out about their concerns on selective education and the impact on disabled children and young people please do let us know as soon as possible. 

Update on Apprenticeships

Since the Enterprise Act became law, the Government has established the Institute for Apprenticeships (IfA) which will support and regulate the quality of employer-led apprenticeships. Additionally the Government has now set targets – all public sector organisations will be required to make sure that 2.3% of their workforce are apprentices at any one time.

During the passage of the Bill ALLFIE gained cross-party support for making apprenticeships more inclusive of disabled individuals (see briefing no. 51) by reviewing the apprenticeship occupational standards for disability equality issues. One of the standards required all apprentices to pass a level 1 or 2 literacy and numeracy qualification to successfully complete their apprenticeship. Since then ALLFIE has been invited onto the Department for BIS’s steering committee which is reviewing the literacy and numeracy exemption. At the moment the Government is considering the recommendation from Maynard’s taskforce that learners with learning difficulties should be able to undertake a literacy and numeracy assessment at a lower level than GCSE standard.                                                                         

Department for Education Consultations

Schools National Funding Formula, Government Consultation Stage 2

The Government is currently consulting on the fine-tuning and implementation of their schools national funding formula, covering the different factors used to calculate the dedicated schools grant including a school’s pupil intake, additional needs, building overheads and location. The Dedicated Schools Grant (DSG) does not include any additional costs involved that schools may incur when enrolling disabled (including SEN) pupils as there is a separate funding formula.

Launch Date: 14th December 2016

Respond Date: 22nd March 2017

High needs national funding formula and other reforms Stage 2

The Government is currently consulting on their refined formulae used to calculate funding that local authorities will receive for children and young people (aged between 0-25) with special educational needs. The refined SEN High Needs formula used to calculate the high needs grant consists of various factors covering children with SEN in the population, health and disability, low attainment, deprivation, historic spend and hospital education. This grant is in addition to the DSG.

ALLFIE will be responding to the second stage consultation.

Launch Date: 14th December 2016

Response Date: 22nd March 2017