Current practice and opinion in special schools for the maladjusted in England and Wales

  • R.L. Dawson

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


This study seeks to describe current practice and opinion in schools for the maladjusted in England and Wales and to exarnlne how far this coincides with earlier descriptions. A review of the literature provides an account of this earlier work, and data accrued from questionnaires completed by 114 schools describe current practice and opinion. The study represents the most extensive empirical enquiry into the work of these schools since 1955 and provides a wide data basis for future research and assessment of progress and change.

The data suggest that there is much communality of practice and opinion within the schools, with most schools emphasising their therapeutic rather than their educational purpose. The work is characterised by the wide use and perceived efficacy of warm, caring adult to child relationships, improvement of pupil self-image through success, and individual counselling and discussion, which permeate a structure of routine, discipline and educational concern. Specialised treatments are not used widely and involve only a minority of pupils. Practice tends to be in reference to conduct disordered pupils who are now perceived as the largest single disorder group within the schools, whereas previously neurotic disorders formed the largest single group. The majority of pupils are perceived as underachieving on entry and requiring remedial help: consequently the educational programme has a remedial bias. For staff, qualities of personality are considered to be more valuable than professional skills. The schools differ in the emphasis they allocate to one or more of four identified areas of treatment described as concern for pupils' needs; degree of pupil participation; theoretical orientation: and the use of external controls. There is a diminished reference to psychoanalytical theory and an increased reference to behaviourist theory relative to previous practice. Similarly, the use and perceived importance and effectiveness of pupil participation and unconditional affection has diminished.
Date of AwardJun 1981
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorMargaret Small (Supervisor)


  • maladjusted
  • special schools
  • survey
  • practice
  • treatment

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