Approved Schools in the Furnace of Change

The Association of Headmasters, Headmistresses and Matrons of Approved Schools (1969) produced a monograph in which it made known its views on the legislation being prepared in the wake of the White Paper, Children in Trouble (Home Office, 1968). In commenting on one particular aspect of the proposals it used the sentence, “The writing is on the wall and we cannot ignore it”. This sentence reflects much of the official response of the Approved School service to the developments of the mid and late 1960s. It was realised that a radical change of attitude was to be advocated by Government and some, such as John Gittins, accepted there was a need for such change and an opportunity for the Approved School service to develop. Others, however, regretted the proposed changes and, in some cases, expressed opposition to a number of the individual proposals.

The term Community Home in particular incurred their disapproval. It was first introduced in Children in Trouble:

‘Community Home’ will be the common legal description for a wide range of establishments meeting the needs which are now served by local authority children’s homes and hostels, remand homes, reception and remand centres, local authorities and voluntary approved schools.

The Association of Headmasters, Headmistresses and matrons of Approved Schools asserted their opposition to the new title, observing “We are schools and we urge the word ‘school’ should be included in the generic title. ‘Community Homes and Schools’ seems to us to be a much more accurate designation of function and to bring out the necessary educational dimension”. They also argued that the changes would damage staff recruitment and undermine their position in salary negotiations which had been undertaken on the basis of parity with mainstream education, with additional special responsibility allowances.

New Role for Managers and Status of Schools

The role of the approved school management body and the future of voluntary schools was another area to cause some concern. Under the new proposals there would be three categories of Approved School (or Community Home): local authority homes; assisted voluntary homes; and controlled voluntary homes. The greatest impact of the proposed change would be on the voluntary managed schools (which were the great majority). These changes in the management structure and powers would be contained in the ‘Instrument of Management’ to be drawn up for each school not managed by the local authority and submitted to the Secretary of State for approval.

In ‘Assisted Status’ homes the managers would be charged with the task of the provision and maintenance of the home and would be responsible for determining the fees to be charged for the use of the facility to the user local authority. Two-thirds of the managers would be appointed by the trustees or other representatives of the founders of the school. The local authority would be responsible for professional oversight of a particular school, within the context of the new Regional Plan, and would provide the remaining third of the managers.

It was also stated in the White Paper that only organisations which had the support of a larger body than their own managing group, would normally be accorded ‘Assisted Status’. This would result in locally managed and owned schools having to either go over to local authority ownership or become ‘controlled status’ schools.

The ‘Controlled Status’ home/school was, in effect, a device for moving the major responsibilities for managing a school from the voluntary organisation to a local authority, whilst enabling the voluntary body to retain ownership of the property and some share in the management. Under this arrangement the financial responsibility would rest wholly with the local authority. Two-thirds of the managers would be from the local authority and a third from the voluntary body. Under the new proposals, managers would no longer have parental rights in respect of the children in the community homes. In future these powers would normally be exercised by the local authority which had placed the child in the school.

Removal of In Loco Parentis Status

The Association of Headmasters, Headmistresses and Matrons of Approved Schools lamented the passing away of these powers from managers, stating that the children would be deprived of having someone with personal knowledge of them and a special responsibility involved in decisions about their care. In practice, the decisions about these matters had usually been made by the head of the school. The White Paper proposed that it would be the task of the professional staff to make such decisions, within the context of the overall responsibility of the local authority. This would give added importance to the role of the local authority social worker. As a result of this, it was hoped, the perspective of the school team caring for the child would be broadened. The social worker would have a knowledge of the child’s life prior to entering the school and would be able to continue to be involved both while the child was in the school and when the child left the school.

The merits of the old system were often illusory, since the only time most managers exercised their parental status was when they chaired the regular reviews of the children in the schools. Often the managers would simply follow the advice of the Head of the school although some did take their responsibilities as meaning a more active involvement in decision-making. Some managers also took great time and trouble getting to know each child and his or her circumstances, which enabled them to take an informed part in the review process. Where this happened there was an independent viewpoint, which could add to the deliberations on the child’s needs and future.

Being able to act in loco parentis undoubtedly gave managers an added interest in, and commitment to, the school. The new system would distance them from any involvement in the decision-making about the lives of individual young people in the schools. There were occasional exceptions to this, for example St Peter’s, Gainford, near Darlington, continued to give some involvement to managers in children’s reviews up until its closure in 1984, allowing managers to chair reviews.

There was some expectation that the new system of local authority involvement would permit the interest of managers to be replaced by that of designated members of the Children’s, later Social Services, Committee. They would be required to visit the establishment on a regular basis. Some of the children in residence would be from the local authority which had responsibility for the Community Home with Education (CHE), as they were to become, but sometimes there would be few such children.

In practice, however, because Committee members had many other commitments, the amount of interest and involvement they would be able to offer a CHE would usually be much less than that of managers under the former system.

Change in Funding Responsibilities

The removal of the semi-independent status of the schools run by small locally managed trusts and committees was to prove to be a more significant factor than the loss of the in loco parentis status of managers. These schools, of which there were 6l prior to the new legislation, formed the majority category. The ending of this status, whilst reducing their isolation, also put the Community Homes with Education in a position where local authorities would, in future, be able to make decisions about their closure.

Another very important, but little noticed, change in the management of the new CHEs was to be in the manner of their funding. The White Paper had given the matter one paragraph of comment. The funding would no longer be shared by central and local government but instead the total cost would be the responsibility of the local authorise using the CHE. Allowance for this shift in the costing of the system would be made through transitory arrangements in the rate support grant.

Gittins (1968a) recognised the importance of the finance proposals and also expressed concern about the possible effects of an uneven distribution of finance on the service, and questioned whether the White Paper had been intentionally vague on the subject. Whether the vagueness was deliberate or otherwise, finance was to prove a greater difficulty than even Gittins had envisaged.

Knock on Effects of Other Social Care Changes

During the time in which the White Paper Children in Trouble and the subsequent legislation were under consideration a number of other developments in local government were also occurring. In 1965 the local government of London had been re-organised. In 1966 a Royal Commission on local government for the rest of England and Wales had been appointed, under the Chairmanship of Lord Redcliffe-Maud. The Commission reported, with major proposals for restructuring, in 1969 (Redcliffe-Maud, 1969).

The Committee on Allied Personal Social Services published its findings in 1968 (the Seebohm Report [Seebohm, 1968]). This Committee had been appointed at the time of the first White Paper The Child, The Family and The Young Offender (Home Office, 1965). Its recommendations were very far-reaching. A new department was to be created from the existing Children’s Department, the Welfare Department and parts of the local Health Departments. The new department was to be known as the Social Services Department and would offer a service to the whole family and the community. The Seebohm Report offered a bold and optimistic vision of a service that would “enable the greatest possible number of individuals to act reciprocally giving and receiving service for the well-being of the whole community” (Seebohm, 1968).

The Seebohm Report, and the legislation which followed, led to the demise of the specialist child care officer and the arrival of the generic social worker concerned with the needs of all age groups. Seebohm was fully aware of the proposals in the White Paper Children in Trouble (Home Office, 1968) and stated that, with the exception of a few reservations in regard to detail, they were accepted as necessary and desirable; and added that the creation of a social services department should provide a firm basis on which to develop the new service.

The Seebohm Report was to add considerable impetus to the movement towards placing greater responsibility on society to cope with its own problems within the community. Its basic premises were well stated in the summary given in the conclusions of the report. This stated that needs must be met “on the basis of the total requirements of the individual or family rather than on the basis of a limited set of symptoms”. This could best be achieved, it was argued, by a clear and comprehensive pattern of responsibility and accountability over the whole field of social care with the added requirement of more resources and a skilled staff.

The Approved Schools’ heads welcomed the Seebohm proposals as a necessary rationalisation and co-ordination of the social work service, but they argued that improvement in organisation does not necessarily bring improvement in practice (Association of Headmasters, Headmistresses and Matrons of Approved Schools, 1969). In particular the Heads were concerned about the marked trend toward treating children in their home environment. Clearly this was desirable, where possible, but they detected an unwillingness to acknowledge that, for some children, separation from their families was the best option.

Others viewed the future more optimistically. The editor of The Child In Care (Residential Child Care Association, February 1970), wrote:

We are moving into an era of family care, care which will be based more and more upon the community…Preventative work will develop in the next decade to an extent undreamed of in recent years – residential work, one forecasts, will assume greater importance though perhaps somewhat diminished eventually in size.

The White Paper on children and delinquency, together with the Seebohm Report, were very significant indicators of the radically changing approach to child care and social work practice.

The Cost of Recognising Poor Conditions of Service

Other developments occurring during this period also contributed to the climate of change. The first of these was the comprehensive enquiry into residential care chaired by Lady Williams, Caring for People (Williams, 1967). This enquiry was primarily concerned with the training and qualifications of people in all forms of residential care. It provided documentary evidence of the appallingly low status accorded to most residential workers. This even caused some surprise in the House of Lords where, in a debate on the Report (10 July 1968), Baroness Summerskill observed of the starting salary of a Deputy Head in a 50-60 bedded home for the elderly, “My Lords, £455 a year in a 50-60 bedded home! A young girl in an office can get this pay”, to which several Noble Lords called out “More!”.

The extremely long hours worked by staff and the poor staff-child ratios was another major area of concern. The position in Approved Schools was marginally better in respect of residential child care staff and much better for teaching staff. However, for the generality of residential workers the situation was often so intolerable that many of them stayed in post for only a short while.

The Williams Report concluded that the most effective way of addressing these issues, raising standards of practice and improving the status of residential staff, should be through the provision of greater training opportunities. It proposed that there be a single training course for all residential workers irrespective of the care setting in which they were employed.

This was a radical notion at the time and was given a mixed reception. The proposal was only partially implemented in that a small number of generic one year courses were developed. The idea was, however, to re-emerge in later years as the basis of the two year Certificate in Social Services course.

Another group concerned about the low status of residential child care met in 1968 at Castle Priory College, Wallingford. The group consisted of a number of representatives from three child care associations: the Association of Children’s Officers, the Association of Child Care Officers and the Residential Child Care Association. The text of the Report was written by Kahan and Banner. Their recommendations, set down in what became known as the Castle Priory Report (Banner and Kahan, 1969), was to have a considerable influence on the future development of residential care.

The Report laid down a carefully calculated set of guide lines on the methods of arriving at the desired standards of child-staff ratios and proposed the number of staff needed, given a working week of 45 hours. This was the first time that such a model had been made available for the guidance of employers (mostly the local authorities). Previously most staff had been given contracts of employment which had stated “hours as required’.

Following the Castle Priory Report the principle of a basic working week was, over the next few years, accepted. Although this was a long overdue development it had major effects on the nature of residential care, in some instances doubling the number of staff involved and increasing the cost of residential care considerably.

Preparing for the Arrival of the Community Home with Education

Meanwhile preparations were in hand for the advent of the Community Home. An announcement in the House of Lords in 1967 heralded the formation of the Development Group. It declared that its purpose had been to promote change and development by taking problems and subjecting them to scrutiny before identifying solutions. To this end models were built and publications produced to promote thinking and discussion. The Group began by appointing a small working party in February 1968 to consider the development of the residential establishments for children envisaged in the two White Papers. The working party was known as the Community Homes Project Committee and consisted of three local authority Children’s Departments representatives, one Approved School headmaster and three Home Office representatives.

In September 1968 it presented its first report to the Home Office Advisory Council in Child Care. The Committee approached its task by considering the way of implementing changes in three Approved Schools: Risley Hall in Nottinghamshire, St Christopher’s in Hillingdon and Walsh Manor in East Sussex. There was criticism that the project attempted to make too many generalisations, on the basis of the study of three schools, about treatment methods for Approved School pupils in all schools. These criticisms, and fears, were answered in subsequent publications by the Group, which became known us the Development Group. In the preface to one of its publications, Care and Treatment in a Planned Environment, (I970), it was clearly stated that there was no attempt to lay down a blueprint for all community homes of the future. Its purpose was rather to “stimulate thinking”.

Over the subsequent ten years a number of reports on the progress of the Project were presented and they provide a valuable record of developments and changes in the Approved

schools/Community Home Schools. Reference will be made later to these publications. In my next chapter I will first, however, consider the legislation that was to emerge from the preceding debates and deliberations that have been noted above – the Children And Young Persons Act 1969.

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