Residential Care and Education for Children and Young People under the age of 18. Ewan Anderson and Norman Cooke 

The purpose of this paper is to identify and clarify sectors of Residential Care and Education provision for children and young people under the age of 18.

The Children Act (1989) provided vital legislation across the field of residential care and education. It followed early work by the Dartington Social Research Unit beginning in 1960 and broadened in 1970 and two publications: ‘Bridges over troubled waters’ by the NHS Health Advisory Service in 1986 and the Wagner Report in 1988.

The Wagner Report covered residential services for all ages and a wide range of needs but the focus was on adult care. To develop and implement the recommendations of the Report, the Wagner Development Group was established with the Charter for Children Steering Group, chaired by Barbara Kahan, as a key component. The project for the Group covered not only children’s homes but also boarding schools together with health and other settings in which children and young people lived in groups away from home. As stated in the final report, ‘Positive Answers’ (1993):

‘The work of the Group has taken place during a period of unprecedented activity and
concern with child care issues, and with residential care in particular.’

To further the work on residential care, the Residential Forum was established by Lady Wagner in 1994. Meanwhile, to pursue the interest in all residential settings for the care and education of children and young people, the York Group was formed in 1987. The membership covered all sectors from boarding to custodial care with representatives from the government departments of education and social services. The Group, which met regularly until 2005 included Barbara Kahan, Haydn Davies Jones and Roger Morgan. Three books were produced which, respectively: examined the effects of the Children Act (1989); developed the elements common to residence; and generated models for residential care and education. An overriding necessity was to identify all the relevant residential settings for children and young people under the age of 18.

In 1994, the work of the Steering Group, ‘Growing up in Groups’ was published. It was the first attempt in Britain to produce a common core of good practice across all sectors. The settings listed were: Boarding Schools, Children’s Homes, NHS Psychiatric Units, Penal Institutions and Other (Nursing Homes, Mental Nursing Homes, other NHS).
In its third book (2005), the York Group developed a model in which 19 settings were identified. A pamphlet by the Residential Forum produced in the following year agreed with this total. The York Group Model has been expanded, extended and examined below.

The model attempts to embrace all those establishments and facilities which can be classified under the heading Residential Care and Education.

It is important to be mindful that:-

  • There maybe additional facilities not covered by this paper.
  • The model is dynamic. That is, it is subject to change – ideas are shared around this
  • External, sometimes market forces, contribute towards the changing nature of the model
  • This paper considers the position in 2021. It is intended to produce two further papers; one on the commonality of care and the other on the possible care of a child on different routes through the sectors from pre-birth to post 18 life.

Additional influences on the model.

The Education and Skills Act 2008 advised that by 2015 all young people (under the age of 18) would remain in education or training up to the age of 18. The last time the school leaving age was raised was in 1972 when ROSLA moved the minimum age to leave education to 16.

In recent years there has been an increased expansion by the private sector into residential provision, particularly Children’s Homes.

Two questions spring to mind. Why is this of interest at the present time? According to John Diamond and Roger Bullock, following the intense activity in the field in the later twentieth century and the early part of this century, there is now little focus on residential care and education for children. However, for many children and young people, residence should be a positive choice and good practice should be ensured. It is therefore important to identify the relevant settings.

Why should this subject appear in a journal on therapeutic care?
The thesaurus lists the following synonyms for ‘therapeutic’: ameliorative, analeptic, beneficial, corrective, curative, good, healing, health giving, medicinal, remedial, restorative, salubrious, salutary and sanative. It is clear from this that the word ‘therapeutic’ can be realistically applied to any residential care and education setting from boarding to social care, health care and custodial.

The authors would be grateful for any ideas on how the model might be further clarified.

They are indebted to David Lane for his advice but responsibility for the article is theirs alone.

Demonstrative model


The inner ‘full’ circle indicates that Education is present in all sectors. Some sectors are exclusively Education; while Health, Social and Custodial can be sector specific as well as sometimes overlapping with each other (shown by —–).

SEMH             Social Emotional and Mental Health

SEBD              Social Emotional and Behavioural Difficulties

EBD                Emotional and Behavioural Difficulties

F.E.                 Further Education

FCAMHS        Forensic Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services

CAMHS          Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services

PICU               Psychiatric Intensive Care Unit

SEN                 Special Educational Needs.

Further explanation of the sixteen sectors identified.

Therapeutic Communities

These communities include Therapeutic Communities for children and Therapeutic Boarding Schools. They provide help with emotional growth of students and support children who face emotional and behavioural problems, abuse problems or learning difficulties.

The main focus of therapeutic boarding schools is on emotional and educational recovery.

Special Schools (Behavioural)

These schools are frequently a mix of full board, flexible boarding and daily attendance. They can be Primary, Secondary and FE establishments. Whilst their specialism may focus on SEMH, SEBD and EBD they also offer particular areas of specialism within their respective fields (as identified on individual schools web sites).

Children’s Homes

As with many sectors, these may be Local Authority funded or Privately Funded.

Ofsted data from 2017-2018 indicate:-

Homes              Beds

114                  1

240                  2

931                  3-4

585                  5-6

186                  7-9

68                    10+

These figures (collectively) indicate a significant number of children who live in Children’s Homes. They will all be educated, not necessarily in the home, but all are in residential living.

Boarding Schools

Whilst most are privately funded (independent) there are also maintained boarding schools. Provision extends from preparatory schools through to Sixth Form. There are a number of specialised Boarding Schools, from Faith Schools through to (for example) ballet, the arts, agriculture, choristers and jockeys.

Military Training Establishments

These are self explanatory post-16 provision. (We include the Merchant Navy here).

F.E. Colleges

These provide similar provision to Boarding Schools.

  1. E Colleges (S.E.N.)/Special Schools (Medical)

Whilst there is some overlap here with Special Schools (Behavioural) these schools are primarily medically led/diagnosed. They care for those of statutory education age who may exhibit problems with physical ability, concentration levels (eg ADHD), ability to understand things, dyslexia, or behaviour or ability to socialise (eg struggle to make friends).

Young Person’s Hostels

These facilities relate to those young people aged 16-17 years of age. Certain distinct criteria apply including homelessness, requiring accommodation and Looked After.

Children’s Hospices

Children’s Hospice offer palliative care to children and young people.

Children’s Hospitals

Teaching may be offered on the ward, or sometimes the hospital has its own designated Hospital School. If the patient is well enough to attend, and able to, they will attend the Hospital School.

Likewise those rehabilitating from a hospital admission will be enabled support with their education.

CAMHS (Tier 4)

This refers to those young people currently suffering from Mental ill-health. They will have previously been referred to a local service which may suggest/seek inpatient treatment for that individual. Whilst this is an open facility great care will be taken to prevent/dissuade some of the young people from wandering off site due to their current vulnerability.

Some open facilities will have a PICU within them where more intense provision may be offered.


This facility works closely with CAMHS and other agencies to provide specialist consultation, assessment and intervention for forensic concerns or complex presentations in children and young people. (Referrals are generally prompted by concerns about potential risks, violence and aggression, or other complex presentations.)

Young Offender Institutions

Young Offender Institutions are run by the Prison Service and private companies. They are for people aged 15-21 (people under 18 are held in different buildings). They house between 60-400 people, split into ‘wings’ of 30 to 60 people.

Secure Training Centres

Are run by private companies. Are for people aged up to 17, house between 50 and 80, split into units of 5-8 people. Give 30 hours of education and training a week, following a school day timetable.

Secure Children’s Homes

Are run by local councils. For young people aged 10-14, house between 8 and 40 people. Give 30 hours of education and training a week, following a school timetable.

All sectors in the model will come under some form of external scrutiny and inspection (e.g. Ofsted, HM Inspectorate of Prisons etc). What the model does illustrate is the diverse nature of Residential Care and Education and significant numbers of children and young people who are educated away from home, for whatever reason.





Leave a comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.