Residential special schools for emotional and behavioural difficulties (EBD) have become a live issue in any consideration of the future of EBD provision in general. Scandals at particular schools, such as Crookham Court and Castle Hill, where systematic abuse was discovered, have prompted a tightening of inspection but this has not halted a growing anxiety about the future (Ogden, 1992; Brannan et al., personal communication). Reports of school closures especially in schools outside the local authority sector have added new uncertainties. Behind these particular concerns lie a series of unresolved questions about the appropriateness of placements, the type of provision on offer and the extent to which these schools can be regarded as effective in dealing with the difficulties associated with children. Answers to these questions have been extremely difficult to find in the period following the 1981 Education Act, yet they have become additionally important in the cost-conscious 1990s when expenditure on residential provision looms large in local authority budgets.