As a recent report exposes yet more maltreatments in children’s residential homes in the 70’s and 80’s, it is reassuring to observe that nowadays the welfare of young people living away from home in all types of boarding schools is thoroughly surveyed.
In a set of four reports, Dr Roger Morgan, Children’s Rights Director for England, and his team relate clearly how children and young people view their life in four different kinds of residential care.
Moreover, for the first time ever a report tells us clearly what it is like to live as a residential student at an FE college. The format is simple, 14 FE colleges with residential students under 18 were picked at random out of the 51 currently offering accommodation. Students were asked for their views on a variety of issues from the location and standard of the buildings they lived in, to hobbies and activities on offer, via what are the dangers to students and "what stops bullying".
Some of the discoveries are predictable. A key finding was the positive difference that good staff make to the quality of life of young people. Yet some of the benefits can prove to be a double edged sword. The social side of residential college life is of top importance. "Living away at college … helps students to learn to be independent, and enables students to enjoy new freedoms away from home"; However it is also the root of homesickness, as one student puts it : "there is no one to comfort you".
Some of the findings were not so expected. By far the most usual answer, which came from almost half of those students surveyed (49%), was that they "didn’t think their colleges needed to give them any more welfare help than they already gave. These students were happy with the amount of welfare help they were getting: ‘No, they pretty much have it covered.’"
The four reports, ‘Life in secure care’, ‘Life in children’s homes’, ‘Life in residential special schools’, and ‘Life in residential further education’ are published on Ofsted’s website today, www.ofsted.gov.uk and the Office of the Children’s Rights Director website www.rights4me.org.