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Children with SEN and disabilities often are not consulted in decisions about whether to send them to a residential special school, according to a report published by the Office of the Children’s Commissioner.

The report says that more ambitious standards are needed for residential special schools and that children need to be listened to when making decisions about their placements and needs. It also claims that levels of support from local authorities placing children and for those transitioning to adulthood are “patchy”, with levels of support provided by local authorities to looked-after-children in residential special schools being of particular concern.

The report, The views and experiences of children in residential special schools, is based on children's accounts of their lives in 17 residential schools for children with special needs. It makes a series of recommendations designed to ensure that every child in a residential special school receives the excellent protection, education and nurture that they are entitled to under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.

“A decision to place a child away from home is momentous, and can be fraught with difficulty”, says Maggie Atkinson, Children’s Commissioner for England. “How well families, and their children, are supported in this very difficult choice is uneven, and all too often time, energy and emotion-consuming when families and children are in long-term testing and vulnerable situations. The bar needs to be raised.”

The Commissioner believes that much more timely, sensitive and consistent support is needed. She says that decisions must be made with the child being placed and subject to formal and regular reviews which involve and engage the child. 

The report is accompanied by My life at school, a detailed account of the research undertaken with children. Both publications can be found on the website of the Children’s Commissioner:

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