Around 6,000 children are educated in 334 residential special schools and colleges, in the state, non-maintained and independent sectors. These placements cost an estimated £500m per annum and typically cater for those with the highest needs,
This prompted the Lenehan Review for the DfE that has been published in the context of the implementation of the Children and Families Act 2014, which sought to give greater control to families and improve outcomes for children and young people by improving the identification and assessment of special educational needs and disabilities (SEND).
Many of the children and young people currently in residential special schools and colleges could be educated in their local communities. Local Authorities (LAs) should in future work more closely with parents, Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) and all providers to develop a range of flexible, local solutions for these children and young people. LAs and CCGs could then offer a better range of services, including mental health and social care support, to ensure children and young people could be educated locally if not LAs would consider residential placements, and parents wouldn’t feel they have to fight to access these.
When needs go unmet in local schools, they intensify in many cases, and behaviours can become ingrained. The search for more appropriate provision leads families to residential special schools and colleges, but some LAs can be reluctant to place there, due to the importance of managing their high needs budget, their desire to keep children and young people in their local communities and, occasionally, a dislike of the independent/non-maintained sector. Many LAs remain reluctant to use residential provision even when they lack a viable alternative placement. The lack of an alternative placement inhibits LAs in discussions with providers and, combined with the power of parental preference, can contribute to fees sometimes seeming excessive.
There can be reduced expectations of educational progress and some young people can be held back by a lack of ambition. Preparation for adulthood can suffer because of this, and some LAs feel outcomes are not as good as they should be.
The review recommends that: –
• children and young people with SEND get the services and support they need in their local community (in mainstream or special provision);
• local areas have planned and commissioned provision strategically, so that it is available when required; and
• the accountability and school improvement systems enable children and young people to achieve the best possible outcomes
To keep the focus on these issues a national leadership board for children and young people with high needs, reporting to the Minister for Children and Families is suggested.
For a full copy of the Lenehan Review, follow this link: https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/657418/Good_intentions_good_enough_-_a_review_of_residential_special_schools_and_colleges.pdf