Aim This study examines the views of parents of children attending schools for the emotionally and behaviourally disturbed (EBD). The study aims to gain an understanding of the journey through the educational system taken by these children and to explore their families’ experience of services along the way.
Methods Thirty parents of 25 children attending primary and secondary EBD schools in three South London boroughs took part in focus group discussions. Parents were asked about their experiences of services, including educational, health and social services, as well as how they thought services should be improved.
Results Qualitative analysis identified a complex web of individual, professional and organizational factors which contributed to social exclusion of children with EBD problems and their families. These factors included children receiving inadequate education because of long periods of exclusion or inappropriate placements whilst waiting for a statement of special educational needs. Parents also felt personally socially excluded because of lack of childcare provision out of school hours. Many parents felt that their children did not fit into services and were constantly being passed on to other professionals. The analysis identified aspects of services that promote social inclusion and provide support to families, including acceptance of children into EBD schools, help from voluntary organizations and support from other parents with children with EBD problems. Parents particularly stressed the value of working in collaboration with professionals to achieve shared goals.
Conclusion EBD schools provide a valuable resource for parents. However parents often lack emotional and practical support in coping with their children's complex needs. Agencies need to improve communication and joint working to provide effective services for these families.