Community Homes with Education – Reformation of the Approved Schools?

The Approved School system officially ended on 31 March 1973 but the break between this system and the new one was not clear-cut.  The vast majority of Approved Schools opted to continue under the new legislation and those that did so began in the same locations with the same staff and the same young people, boys and girls. There had been much preparatory work done by the various government departments   concerned and by most of the service providers.  Thus a change in philosophy as well as legislation was under way, to varying degrees, in all the schools. This was a bold and progressive process that aimed at using the resources and skills that had already been invested in the Approved Schools in adapting the care and management of children and young people to modern thinking and in 1973 the future augured well despite some doubters.

Community Homes

The Community Home system, introduced under the terms of the Children and Young Persons Act 1969, came into operation on 1 April 1973. The period between the passing of the Act and the introduction of Community Homes had been spent preparing for the radical changes to the system. This process had begun in March 1970 with the Secretary of State making an order establishing the twelve Regional Planning Areas. Regional Plans had then to be drawn up and submitted to the Secretary of State for approval. By 1 April 1973 a total of 2,335 former Approved Schools, Remand Homes, Children’s Homes and Nurseries had formally become Community Homes. This included 121 Approved Schools, 84 of which had been managed and owned by voluntary groups. These changes had been achieved, both locally and nationally, only after many complex negotiations. It was not possible to complete all the necessary formalities for all institutions before April 1973 but by 1 April 1975 the number of institutions which had become Community Homes had increased to 2,430.

The term Community Home with Education (CHE) came to be used, semi-officially, to note the distinction between the former Approved Schools and other establishments designated as Community Homes. Only a minority of the Approved Schools which had been run by voluntary management committees had been managed by national bodies, such as Barnardo’s.  Many of the locally run schools were transferred outright to local authorities, although not necessarily to the local authorities in whose areas they were located. Thus, for example, in Region 1 in the North East of England, Wellesley School in the County of Northumberland became the responsibility of Sunderland Metropolitan Borough Council (MBC) and Axwell Park School in the MBC of Gateshead became the responsibility of Newcastle MBC.

A number of voluntary schools elected to go into partnership with the local authorities under either ‘controlled’ status or ‘assisted’ status. To achieve these changes in status and to regularise financial matters, where a change in ownership was involved, it was necessary for the Secretary of State to make an Order under Section 46 of the 1969 Act. By April 1975 the number of such Orders made was 93.

All controlled and assisted Community Homes with Education continued to have a number of voluntary managers. ‘Instruments of Management’ were formulated and, in effect, these became the constitution of the managing body under the terms of Section 39 of the 1969 Act. These changes in the management, and often in the ownership, of the schools were accompanied by changes in the structures of social service agencies and the boundaries of local authorities. As a result the Community Home with Education system was launched into a sea of uncertainty and confusion.

The Development Group

The Home Office appointed Development Group but under the new legislation CHEs became accountable to the Department of Health and Social Service (DHSS), as did the Group. It had the task of helping the providers of CHEs with the formulation of forward-looking policies. Its publication, Care and Treatment in a Planned Environment (DHSS, 1970) indicated a shift in emphasis for the newly emerging CHEs. It was proposed that, in deciding what treatment a child should have, greater weight must be given:

..”.to the background and causal factors underlying his behaviour, although it must still be recognised that presenting symptoms in the form of difficult or anti-social behaviour should also receive attention in the treatment situation”.

Community Homes with Education were no longer regarded as places where most boys and some girls who had been formally identified as delinquents would be sent, but rather as a provision for “children who present anti-social and aggressive behaviour and whose disturbance is such that it calls for particular investigation and treatment”. Community Homes with Education were to be a specialist resource which also offered education on the premises for those who could not make use of normal community facilities. This was a radical departure from the former philosophy of the purpose the Approved School, where the emphasis had been on creating an environment which offered a structure allowing for basic formal education, vocational training and ‘character building”.

An Integral Part of the Child Care Service


The Development Group Report declared that a Community Home must be seen as an integral part of the child care service and not an isolated facility. It was suggested that there were advantages in introducing CHEs for a mixed population of both boys and girls. It was, however, accepted that for some young people a single-sex establishment would be more appropriate. The age range for children placed in CHEs would be from eight to nineteen years, though it was considered that individual establishments should cater for a fairly restricted age group.

The transformation of the former Approved Schools into the Community Homes system had a number of immediate effects:

  1. They ceased to be the direct responsibility of a central Government Department.
  2. Children were no longer admitted from all parts of England and Wales but primarily and, as time went on, often exclusively from the Region in which they were located.
  3. The Homes moved from being run largely by independent groups of managers to being directed either exclusively by local authorities or by voluntary bodies with a local authority input into their management.
  4. The clearly laid down age ranges of junior, intermediate and senior ended, this by default rather than by direct decree.
  5. The distinction that had  been maintained between children on religious grounds became far less rigid. (Prior to the change of status of the Approved Schools there had been, for example, 25 schools which were almost exclusively for Roman Catholics. A number of these had opted for ownership and management by the local authorities but 18 of them continued  to be managed by Roman Catholic bodies under the terms of the Children and Young Persons Act 1969. It  was left to the discretion of individual local authorities to decide on individual placements and these decisions became almost entirely dominated by issues other than supposed religious affiliation).
    1. The limitation on the number of days a child could spend at home on leave from the Community Home with Education was no longer specified but could be determined to suit the needs of each child (and each Home).

7.   Heads of CHEs were no longer obliged to accept into their establishments whichever young people the Courts were                          Courts placed with them, since the children no longer came to them as a specific requirement of the Courts.

  1. The total cost of placing and keeping a child in a CHE had to be borne by the local authority which had required the child to be in the establishment. The cost per week per school was to be determined by the provider local authority. (The 1969 Act did make some allowance to offset this additional cost to local authorities by making extra monies available on a yearly basis through increases in the rate support grant, but this money was not specific nor was it ring-fenced from use for other purposes).

All of these factors played an increasing part in the change in function and status of CHEs, and some of them      were to be major factors in the eventual decline of the system’s operation.

New Thinking on Residential Child Care


Throughout the 1970s there was a concerted effort to modernise the methods of child care (though, less so education), improve the accommodation and, indeed, build some new provision. This period was seen by some as a time when local authority social workers and administrators “armed with their child saving ideology were prepared to use institutions at a drop of a hat and to spend as much money on building them as they could” (Thorpe et al., 1980).

Much of the attention of central government and the new machinery of local government seemed focused on residential services. Indeed the DHSS Development Group Community Homes Project concentrated virtually all its efforts on changing regimes inside the old Approved Schools. The newly created Children’s Regional Planning Committees had similarly devoted most of their energies to the role of the CHEs. In all, very little effort had been expended on the development of services in the community. It is noteworthy that the Association of Directors of Social Services in their evidence to a House of Commons Social Services Sub-Committee in 1974 spent much of their submission expressing concern about the shortage of places in CHEs and associated problems (see Short, Report 1975).

Tutt (1974) maintained that CHEs continued to have the often conflicting aims that had been present in the Approved Schools. Indeed, he suggested that some of the changes in emphasis of the new system increased the conflict. These conflicting aims were the expectations that the children in CHEs would receive therapy and treatment, but at the same time be subject to containment and punishment. Despite the changes of terminology introduced under the 1969 Act, for example Care Orders rather than Approved School Orders, Tutt maintained that the basic premise, accepted by both staff and boys, of “inmates’ delinquency” continued to prevail. He concluded that residential treatment was failing on the counts of custody, rehabilitation and treatment. At that time, however, he believed that CHEs would continue because “society needs or thinks it needs such a system”.

Kahan and the DHSS Project Groups


It was, indeed, the general expectation that Community Homes with Education would continue to form a major part of the child care system, and staff attitudes needed to change so as to offer a better service. Considerable time and attention was expended by the DHSS Development Group Community Homes Project to the CHE system. The project involved the group working closely with three local authorities who were building or rebuilding CHEs; East Sussex, the London Borough of Hillingdon and Nottinghamshire. St Christopher’s in Hillingdon was the first of the ‘project homes’ to be built and the whole process of the development of this new CHE was closely monitored by the DHSS team, the local authority and the staff at St Christopher’s. A comprehensive account of this exercise is contained in A Community Home Growing Up (DHSS, 1979).

A significant part of the exercise of introducing change into the system was a series of seminars. These involved senior people in the DHSS, the local authorities, the CHE concerned and neighbouring CHEs. The main issues addressed were the development of the philosophy of a CHE, its management and the day-to-day care and education of its pupils.

A key person in the DHSS Development Group was Barbara Kahan. She had been a distinguished Children’s Officer in Oxfordshire and had been critical of the Approved School system, believing it to be too punitive. She worked hard to provide alternatives within the child care service and ensured that for a number of years children in Oxfordshire did not become the subjects of Approved School Orders. Kahan was appointed Deputy Chief Inspector in the Home Office Children’s Department with responsibility for the Development Group. When the Children’s Department was absorbed into the DHSS she continued the work of the Group there as Assistant Director in the new Social Work Service.

The Development Group was concerned with change and practice development, including changing the former approved schools into more child care focused and therapeutic establishments. A report of the Group’s activities showed that:

“In the eight or nine years since its inception the Group has undertaken many projects and has produced a long list of publications, of which nine have been published by HMSO and the other are produced informally. The Development Group’s programme for 1976 involved work with 1,300 people, including eighty-six English and seven Welsh social service departments, thirty-seven local education authorities, thirty-four probation services and eleven police forces” (DHSS, 1979).

It is clear from this degree of activity that the DHSS were investing much time, effort and finance in developing a resource for which they foresaw a continuing need. Their involvement with St Christopher’s, the ‘project home’ in Hillingdon, illustrates well the process followed by the Group to achieve their aims. This Community Home with Education was rebuilt as a replacement for an outdated structure. A number of important principles were laid down in the design of the new building.

The Model for CHE Regimes


It was to be a CHE in which the norm would be living in small groups, there was to be a high staff-child ratio, scope for privacy both for boys and staff (many of whom would be resident), furnishing and equipment were to be on a domestic scale in a generally comfortable and colourful environment. “Thus the philosophy of the 1969 Act was to some extent given a tangible shape in this building” Kahan told a 1977 audience. The cost of this change of philosophy was not disregarded but, if this new approach worked, “it will be worth the money”.

The involvement at St Christopher’s was spread over the years from 1973 to 1977, beginning and ending with seminars. This was to be one of the most detailed pieces of work undertaken by the Development Group and was to be used as a model for much of its other work. The staffing structure of the new St Christopher’s reflected many of the emerging changes in the philosophy of care and education.

The most senior member of staff was to be known as the Principal. This title replaced that of Headmaster. It indicated the move away from an educational model of the management structure. It also allowed for the possibility of a non-teacher holding the top management position in an establishment – something unlikely in the days of boys’ Approved Schools although possible in girls’ schools and some of the senior boys’ schools. The change of title also signified the diminishing emphasis put on the formal educational function of CHEs.

The other senior staff were to be known as Assistant Principal (Social Work) and Assistant Principal (Education). These two positions gave full recognition of the two major functions of the CHE and also of the equal importance to be given to both areas. The post of Bursar replaced that of Matron. As has been noted earlier Matrons often played a major role in Approved Schools. The Bursar was now viewed as an administrator and home manager. The position of Matron had involved a management component but had been concerned more specifically with overseeing the health and welfare of the children.

The post of Housewarden, with responsibility for one of the five separate units which comprised St Christopher’s, was similar in title and function to that which operated in the Approved School structure This was indicative of the fact that there were a number of areas which were carried over from former times. The title of Housewarden was also related to its continuing use within the salary structure, specifically for former Approved School staff. This was to be significant in maintaining salary differentials between Approved School child care staff and residential social workers in other community homes.

In an attempt to indicate a view of the role and status of CHE care staff, reactive to the new social services departments structures, those who had been Deputy Housewardens were renamed Senior Social Workers. The main body of residential child care workers, in line with this thinking, were called residential social workers. There were 15 of them in total for the five units. This number indicates the much greater importance attributed to the child care element in the Community Homes.

The teaching team consisted of seven staff, in addition to the senior posts noted above, to organise and offer education to the total school population of 62 boys. The Teachers undertook up to 15 hours a week extraneous duties, thus working alongside care staff some evenings and weekends. This practice occurred in many but not all CHEs.

There was a large ancillary staff consisting of Deputy Bursar, two Cooks, one Laundress and one Seamstress (both positions carried over from the Approved Schools) and domestic staff (six full-time equivalents). Two Clerks undertook administrative duties, carrying out tasks of increasing importance with the growing number of case reviews and increased levels of written records generally.

The te

There were two night staff, whose role was important but who were often seen only as night-watchmen. Night times could be very difficult in a Community Home with Education. For some boys it was a time to engage in pranks or delinquency (on and off the premises), and it could be an occasion for running away or a time of lonely distress. These eventualities were not always catered for when selecting night care officers.

Finally there were two Gardeners/handymen. In all there was a total of 54 staff (or their full-time equivalent), which in practice meant over 60 people working in the CHE. Apart from the greatly increased number of staff, giving a much higher staff-boy ratio, the other most noteworthy feature of the staffing was the absence of the Instructors, who had operated in most boys’ Approved Schools. This was as a result of the gradual abandonment of the training school concept. Some CHEs retained Instructors, in farming for instance, but these were phased out over the following few years.

The greatly improved staffing structures, although welcome, added to the complexity of the task of managing a CHE. As the Development Report (DHSS, 1979) observed of St Christopher’s:

“The problems of managing so many professional staff of different disciplines, and ancillary staff, are very great. In fact they can be seen almost to outweigh the problems of looking after and helping the boys.”

The management style adopted at St Christopher’s was described as an amalgam of the autocratic and the democratic. Staff and residents were encouraged to participate fully in the life and decision-making in the CHE whilst having to accept that there were some decisions that had to be imposed if it was to function effectively.

A feature of the consultative and participatory concept was the need for regular meetings of both staff and residents. This degree of consultation was clearly time-consuming but necessary for a CHE with a large number of staff and a regime that aimed at involving staff and pupils in sharing the management of the establishment.

Status Issues


An area of difficulty that quickly emerged was the role and status of the officer appointed by the local authority to be directly responsible for a CHE. As the heads of most Approved Schools had been solely accountable to their management committees, they were often reluctant to accept that they now had to be responsible to a local authority officer, especially if the person appointed had only a limited knowledge of the problems of caring for and educating a group of disturbed and difficult adolescents. The other issue was in identifying an officer at the correct level in the departmental structure to exercise this responsibility. Heads and Principals of some CHEs were on a salary on a par with the Director of Social Services. Some saw it as incongruous therefore that they should be accountable to anyone less than the Director.

Those difficulties were, in some instances, never resolved  and were one of the contributing factors to the unease felt by some social service departments about CHEs.

Debate on Role of Care and Education


An address given by the Development Group co-ordinator, Principal Social Work Service Officer, Jim Hodder, in 1973 described the foundations on which he believed effective residential care and education in a CHE must be based:

“One element in a regime which should be important is the degree of self-determination and democracy, of accepting the child for what he is, enabling him to say what he wants to say in the way he can say it.  A feeling of security in relation to boundaries is needed and consistency of understanding”.(DHSS1979).

Hodder also questioned the objectives of education in a CHE and asked about the aim of the education being provided.

“Are we training them for the world outside? Are we giving them a trade-training? If so, do they stick to it? Is it what they want? Or are we educating them for life”

He implied that the objective should be education for life. He also questioned the relevance of trade-training to this preparation for the life outside of the institution. Hodder did not, however, pay much attention to the issue of formal education.

At the end of the first part of the Development Group’s exercise in 1973 at St Christopher’s, Barbara Kahan  summed up the objective of the exercise:

“The new St Christopher’s represents part of an attempt to re­orientate attitudes nationally, to a task which used to be called ‘training young delinquents’ and is now called ‘caring for children in trouble’ “(DHSS, 1979).

An area of constant difficulty in the functioning of the CHEs, as it had been in the Approved Schools, was the relationship between teaching and care staff. The change of emphasis to care rather than formal education had altered the balance between them. Kahan pointed out that the homes were now officially described as Community Homes with Education on the premises, and that the boys and girls sent to them were sent primarily because they have personal and family problems, not educational problems, although clearly many also had educational problems (DHSS, 1979). As a result of the changes, some teachers considered their career prospects had been damaged.

The solution to these differences, Kahan had suggested, was the professionalism the two groups of staff.. Although there was still some debate about the nature of professionalism in education, teachers were in fact nearly all fully trained, which was far from the case with residential social workers. It was social work which was engaged in the struggle for recognition in the early 1970s, with some success. Despite this growing credibility of social work, however, teachers still enjoyed far more favourable salaries and conditions of service than most residential social workers.

When the Development Group returned to St Christopher’s three years later, in 1976, it was advised that progress had been made on the teacher-social worker issue. Social work staff were taking some part in the individual tuition of boys under the guidance of teachers and teachers continued to undertake duties in the house units. There was still concern by teachers, however, about being excluded from the review and assessment processes. The classroom situations remained challenging and difficult, particularly as the more democratic and participatory processes, which had emerged in the group living situation, were not always easily transferable to the classroom.

The reports from internal working parties to the Development Group made clear that many conflicts and uncertainties had emerged from the multi-disciplinary staffing structures and developing philosophies of care and education that been introduced into the CHE. The Principal had an important leadership role and set the tone for a CHE. Inter-staff rivalries became much less significant under effective management. The successful pursuit of a common task, coupled with deserved recognition of the value of each member of the team would normally ensure that the differences did not become divisive but rather lead to a cohesive staff team.


Staffing Issues


Achieving this harmony was, however, no mean task. The activity of the Development Group involved complete staff teams exposing their concerns and anxieties both to themselves and to outsiders. It was at times a harrowing, if salutary, experience for the staff of the CHEs involved. It challenged the leadership of CHEs to face up to new methods of care and management. It raised expectations in many of the staff that a new era was dawning. This was certainly true to a significant degree but it was to be a testing time as well as a time of opportunity. Many of the old certainties were being questioned and some staff were not clear about the ethos of the home, and boys and staff alike felt this confusion.

Nevertheless the Development Group continued to tackle the transformation of the ex-Approved Schools with fervour and conviction and, in the process, continued to uncover many issues. Amongst the topics that were developed at meetings in many different parts of England were the design of the homes, education, staffing ratios, costs, regional planning, corporal punishment, management of CHEs, admission criteria and local authorities ‘rationalisation’ of services. Great things were expected from the process of redesigning buildings and the move away from the old block school system. The Reports of the exercises at Carlton, St Vincent’s, Formby and St Gilbert’s included a number of pages illustrating the design variations considered at the seminars of 1972, 1976 and 1978.

Staffing implications logically followed from the implementation of the ‘small group’ concept. The model advocated for staffing structures was taken from the Castle Priory Report (Banner and Kahan, 1969). Prior to this Report there had been few guidelines for determining staffing ratios for child care establishments, largely because few employers laid down staffing structures, and staff in children’s homes were expected to work an unspecified number of hours.

In 1972, after an agreement of the relevant trades unions and employers, a circular was sent to every local authorities from the Joint Secretaries of The National Council for Local Authority Administrative, Professional and Technical staff stating that

“It has now been agreed to introduce a limit to working week for those staff and to recommend… that will come into effect from October 1972  staff should not be required to work more than 45 hours per week without compensation”. This was  reduced, in 1975, to 40 hours a week.

The Castle Priory Report’s staffing calculations were based on the belief that there should be a staff/child ratio of at least 1 to 6. The Report identified the hours that staff would be required to cover during a ‘waking day”, taking account of staff absence on leave, courses and sickness. Finally, it suggested staff requirements in various types of child care establishment of differing numbers of residents. These proposals were gradually implemented by employers and at the same time the salaries of residential child care staff were also significantly increased.

Increase in the Costs


The combined effect of the new policies of smaller units, greater emphasis on the residential care component of the Community Homes with Education, a shorter working week and staff being paid higher salaries was to increase the costs of  CHEs substantially. Teaching staff, heads and deputies of CHEs continued to have their salaries and conditions of service negotiated by a sub-committee of Burnham, thus maintaining the link with Teachers and Headteachers’ salaries in mainstream education.

As Teachers’ salaries in the 1970s greatly improved so did salaries of teaching staff in CHEs. Allowances for extraneous duties and special payments for working in a CHE also increased. Towards the end of the 1970s holidays for staff paid on Teacher grades were increased from eight weeks per annum to fourteen, as for Teachers in mainstream education. Once again staff costs rose considerably.

Barbara Kahan commented on staff costs in a seminar at St Vincent’s Community Home with Education, Formby in May 1974:

“Staffing will and should be therefore the most expensive item of any residential community’s budget. To cut the cost of this is to economise in the most important area of expenditure and to risk the benefits of much of the rest”.

These views, and presumably those of her then employer, the DHSS, showed signs of changing when, in a conference on CHE management in 1978, she observed that all residential care is expensive in terms of resources and that the CHEs are particularly expensive. She continued by asking whether the child and young person, always got the benefit of the extra cost:

“For example staff costs are and, if the job is to be done well, must be, high, but how much relationship is there between the high staffing cost and the amount of real individual attention that each boy or girl receives.”

The doubts on costs were made even more explicit at a further DHSS seminar on CHEs later in 1978 when Geoffrey Banner, then Assistant Director of Social Services for Wiltshire, examined the options and priorities for social service departments (Banner, 1979). He said that there was a very real danger of CHEs pricing themselves out of the market in the face of a wide range of demand for  services by people in the community.

In the two CHEs with which he was connected the user authorities would be charged, from the beginning of April 1978, £10,000 per annum per child. He said that for this amount his department could pay for one year’s Intermediate Treatment for 100 young people, or for 130 places in priority day care for young children coming from families at risk, or meals in the home on two days each week for 1,500 elderly and disabled people. Initially these considerations were acted upon by a few local authorities, and eventually the vast majority.

Optimism for the Future


In the early 1970s, however, the mood remained positive. Regional planners were predicting continuing, even increased demand for places within CHEs. In the DHSS seminar at St Gilbert’s School, Hartlebury, in 1973, the school staff were told “5,460 residential places will be needed for the Region. Based on 90% occupancy, an average of 4,910 will be available, having a shortfall of 550 places” (this was for all types of community home). In respect of CHEs it was stated that “although schools will have become community homes, demand for this type of accommodation in 1975 will be for 985  places of which 857 will be available, a shortfall of 130 places”.

At a DHSS seminar in the Midlands in 1975 there was still an assumption of the need for more CHE  places. The Professional Adviser for Region 5 said that while the predicted need was for 580 CHE places in 1975 there were only 419 places in the region. One of the main objects of the Midlands seminar had been to assist Derbyshire and Lincolnshire in the development of two new CHEs, one in each local authority.

Elsewhere in the Midlands (Risley Hall CHE) an example was given of the demand for CHE places in the mid seventies:

“In the quarter from 1 April 1975 to 30 June 1975 the region had received 104 applications for boys’ places in Community Homes with Education. By 14 July, 88 boys had been offered places, i. e. 85% and only 15 remained unplaced …Reasons for non allocation of the 15 were – 3 papers rejected – 1 care authority changed its mind, 6 – no vacancies, 5 refused as unsuitable”(DHSS, 1976a).

On the evidence of this type of demand there was little thought of the possibility of decline and closure. How wrong this view was to be proved as will be seen in following accounts.

3 thoughts on “Community Homes with Education – Reformation of the Approved Schools?”

  1. I went to a CHE (Duncroft), because the staff did not change, when it changed from an approved School to a CHE I was told I was at an approved school. I was treated as if I was at an approved school. I was kept sedated with drugs and I was physically forced on more than one ocassion it was called “Pindown”. I was placed in a padded cell, forcibly injected with drugs and often put in a straight jacket. I was 14. My crime was I had absconded from my previous placement and my parents were upper-middle class, I never made a complaint of abuse as “abuse does not happen in nice middle class homes”. I think you should tell all those in care because they were called maladjusted, abused by the system and told that they were in the wrong. Family life was awful for many but we were punishmed for our parents failures.

  2. You know full well “Susan Melling” that this is pure fabrication. Pindown was not used at Duncroft, nor were you sedated with drugs unless you brought them there yourself. Stop lying for once in your sorry life.

  3. And additionally “Susan Melling” how come your email address is from [email protected]
    – that wouldn’t be Fiona would it? The well-known agitator from the highly-dubious Savile exposure? Mark Williams-Thomas’ little toady? You really think you’re going to spend your life trying to smear Duncroft and get away with it? Not a chance.


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