Scottish residential special schools for children with social, emotional and behavioural difficulties
This research is the only specific study to date which attempts to consider the work of all the Residential Special Schools in Scotland for children who exhibit emotional, social or behavioural difficulties. It considers whether these schools are in terminal decline or whether they continue to make an important contribution to Scottish education as a whole. Although there is considerable literature about theoretical issues, there has been relatively little direct empirical research into the work of these schools and their client population and an almost total lack of interest in the curriculum. The field work was conducted from 1982 to 1988 at a period of considerable change and upheaval in the Residential Special Education sector in Scotland. It is a descriptive and evaluative study adopting a particular orientation in curriculum theory. Part One considers the wider context within which these residential special schools operate including their complex historical background, the theoretical viewpoints (notably those relating to maladjustment and delinquency) which have come to predominate, present systems in Britain for dealing with problem children, as well as comparable education-based systems in other parts of the world. It is argued that in many respects educational and social policy in Scotland towards these children has evolved in a distinctive fashion. There is a review of research literature in this field and the methodology and orientation of this enquiry are examined. Part Two sets out the field studies in detail. It considers the provision available for the numerically smaller groups of younger children, single-sex schools for adolescent girls and the approach towards children held in Secure Units. The majority of residential placements are for adolescent boys aged 14-16 years, who are typically of normal intelligence but have poor school attainments and little realistic chance of reintegrating into mainstream schools. It is noted that there is a remarkable diversity of approach evident in the residential schools. This diversity is conceptualised as a spectrum moving from 'left' to 'right'. Many of the residential schools in the centre can be described as 'Orthodox'. They are an adjunct to other forms of mainstream and special educational provision in Scotland. However, those referred to as 'Alternative Communities' together with the Secure Units provide an experience radically different to education in its conventional form. Part Three analyses and evaluates these schools in terms of a process model of the curriculum. It is argued that as well as promoting instrumental learning the residential special schools make explicit the 'hidden curriculum' of the ordinary mainstream school. An understanding of the processes and values that sustain their curriculum, rather than the unsophisticated application of an objectives-outcomes model, is the key to meaningful evaluation of these schools. The function of research in this regard is to 'illuminate' a complex situation not to pretend to 'measure' it. Finally the policy implications of the research are considered including the theoretical and methodological implications. A number of appendices and tables are provided.