Inclusion Now 46

Residential Special School Review

The Government has announced an independent review of residential school provision shortly after the Department of Health’s publication of Christine Lenehan’s “These are Our Children” – a damning report of the placement of disabled young people with complex needs within assessment and treatment units and psychiatric inpatient hospital care settings.

Evidence revealed that 21% of disabled young people aged 18-21 years old in NHS mental health inpatient care have transferred directly from previous residential placements, including residential special school settings. Residential special school and college placements were not left unscathed by the report, which raised their lack of expertise and inadequacy of provision to meet the needs of their disabled children and young people.

The report dispelled the myth that residential school was a parental choice. Lenehan found placement was one means of diverting a crisis as a result of the local authority’s failure to provide early years intervention, SEN provision and out of hours support facilitating the child’s rights to family life and local mainstream education.

In light of the criticism, the Department for Education has commissioned Lenehan to conduct an independent review of residential special schools. It will focus on the role and quality of residential special school and college provision covering

  • How and why such children come to be placed in residential school settings
  • Patterns of commissioned provision of residential special school placements
  • What good support looks like before, during and after placement
  • Outcomes and destinations of these young disabled people

So the remit assumes that residential special schools continue to be part of the solution rather than a barrier to preventing institutionalisation of the next generation of disabled people. It fails to ask the fundamental question: do we need these residential special schools and colleges if there is availability of great local inclusive education provision? The question would recognise that separation of disabled children and young people from their families and communities is often a traumatic experience, and can be a lonely path to lifelong institutional care and warehousing of disabled adults. If we want to stop disabled people entering mental health in-patient care or assessment and treatment units we need to close down institutionalised provision.

We must clearly tell the review that we need a programme of closure of segregated education provision. We can be sure that if residential special school and college survivors and their allies do not speak up the Government will have the green light to not only continue funding but also expand residential special school and college provision.

What do we need from you?

The review of residential special schools and colleges closes 17th March – please tell us your stories. We need to tell the Department for Education about the long term negative impact residential schools have in promoting disabled people’s civil and human right to full participation in society. We are focusing on the following sections of the review:

How and why children and young people end up in residential special schools and colleges
The experiences and outcomes of these children and young people and their families, and how these can be improved
Destinations for the children and young people

We are providing additional guidance on how to complete the review questions so that members and supporters are able to respond in their own words whilst letting the Department for Education know that the only way forward is to close residential special school provision down. Our full briefing is here. Please contact ALLFIE if you need a paper copy.

Simone Aspis