The Mulberry Bush School

The Mulberry Bush School

‘Showing the way in therapeutic child care’

The Mulberry Bush School

The Mulberry Bush School is a non-maintained residential special school and children’s home. It is a national resource, based in rural Oxfordshire looking after vulnerable children aged 5-13 from all over the UK and actively working with their families. The School comprises five residential homes, an on-site school, a clinical therapies and networks team and a training team, all based on one outstanding spacious and well-resourced site.

You can download a copy of our Information Booklet for parents, carers and professionals here


Our Provision

The school provides integrated 38-week and 52-week specialist residential therapeutic care, treatment and education for primary aged children made vulnerable by their severe Social Emotional and Mental Health Difficulties.

We work closely with referring authorities and the children’s birth, foster and adoptive families to support them with the changes they need to enable them to live together. We carry out a needs assessment on each child and their family during the first 12 weeks of placement. This provides base line assessment information from which we develop our education, care and treatment plans and ensures we can closely monitor progress in all areas. We are committed to being flexible in tailoring our provision to meet the needs of each child and family.

All our staff are trained to Level 5 via our Foundation Degree in ‘therapeutic work with children and young people’, accredited by the University of the West of England.



Our Services

  • Individualised care, treatment and education plans, overseen by a multidisciplinary Treatment Team of highly trained professional staff, including a team of therapists.
  • 38 week and 52 week therapeutic residential care. Our 52 week ‘step down’ children’s home service ‘The Burrow’, opened in Summer 2018.
  • High quality educational provision developed to meet the specific needs of each child in our on-site school.
  • Psychotherapy, drama and music therapy, group work, family therapy and Video Interaction Guidance.
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Ofsted Outstanding ProviderOur most recent Ofsted Inspection of the Education was in January 2018 and rated the school as ‘Outstanding’ in all areas:

  • The leadership team has maintained the outstanding quality of education at the school since the last school inspection.
  • While in your care, pupils make momentous strides in their learning, confidence and self-esteem.
  • The new approach to assessing pupils’ progress is now properly embedded across the school and assists teachers in sharing with pupils what they need to do in order to improve their work.
  • The key therapeutic approaches you adopt are woven through every aspect of the school, including the curriculum.
  • Your staff are also acutely aware of the impact they have on pupils. Nothing is left to chance. Every aspect of each pupils’ care is planned in minute detail. Consequently, pupils whose experiences have been negative in other educational institutions, including special schools, often have very positive experiences at your school.
  • Safeguarding within the school is rightly focused on developing pupils’ understanding of how to conduct safe relationships. Social and emotional learning is sensibly prioritised within the school curriculum.
  • The school has strong evidence which shows that its work to help pupils make sense of their own complex and often traumatic life stories is having a positive impact.

Our most recent Ofsted Inspection of the Quality Standards was in November 2019 and rated the school ‘Outstanding’:

  • Exceptionally well-trained staff go to great lengths to support the children, all of whom have experienced trauma in their earlier childhoods. The staff give them stability, understanding and the confidence to achieve.
  • Staff convey warmth, acceptance and empathy in their interactions with the children. The children learn to be in a group and to conform to rules and expectations. Consequently, children begin to understand that they can have a positive influence on the social and physical environment in which they live.
  • Staff and the children have a sense of belonging to a supportive community. Children enjoy living in a well-equipped and child-centred environment.
  • Staff work in close partnership with the children’s families and with their professional networks. Positive communication and collaborative relationships help to build trust and engagement.
  • The range of different therapies and services available ensure that the children’s social, emotional and educational needs are extremely well met.
  • Staff advocate a reflective and open culture Children are encouraged to have a voice, and staff listen to them. Children sit on the school council and influence decisions which may affect their lives and the running of the community.
  • Influential leaders and managers are unwavering in their determination to improve the children’s life chances. Research-informed practice continues to develop from a strong and confident base. Practice in the home has contributed to wider learning within the residential sector through published papers and training at a local and national level.

The Mulberry Bush School Statement of Purpose

You can download a copy of the full Statement of Purpose Here


Our mission statement is:

To transform the lives of all those affected by childhood trauma, through specialist therapeutic services.

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Our aim:

The Mulberry Bush School works with the most challenging children in the country, and with their families and carers. Our aim is to help the children and their families thrive and achieve fulfilling lives within their communities and as part of society.

The children have all suffered severe and enduring complex trauma in their early years; by that we mean that their traumas occurred in relation to the adults who were their trusted main carers. These damaging events and relationships lead the children to display the most extreme anxiety creating behaviours, which then gives rise to multiple placement breakdowns and school exclusions. The impact of their repeated experience of adults’ inability to cope with and survive them, has compounded their trauma and creates unmanageable levels of anxiety in the children and their professional and family networks. Children act out this anxiety and confusion through a range of extreme behaviours including; violence, damage to property, sexual inappropriateness, fire setting, absconding, roof climbing, self harm, soiling, smearing and wetting, inappropriate aggressive or racist language threats and allegations.

The Mulberry Bush School is different to other residential placements as we create an environment to emotionally contain such extreme levels of emotional and physical unmanageability.   Our aim is to manage the anxiety, create stability and provide a challenging but nurturing therapeutic experience, that starts to heal the traumas. Our ambition is to work with the family towards returning the child at the end of their stay with us to a stable home base and appropriate school, able to function more appropriately in mainstream society. Our early intervention helps to break the cycle of deprivation that will otherwise lead to an enactment of high risk and abusive behaviours into their adult life, hence our work is both emotionally and financially cost saving to society .

The Three Core Principles

The organisation has three core principles that underpin its therapeutic work:

  • Staff need a good psychodynamic understanding to provide an informed psychodynamic approach
  • The development of a reflective culture at all levels and in all disciplines is paramount
  • Collaborative working is central to a high quality treatment environment

Our core values:

  • We believe in the benefits of a Therapeutic Community approach.
  • We value and promote a psychodynamic approach to all aspects of our work, specifically a belief in the value of reflecting on experience and learning through such reflection.
  • A belief in the importance of understanding the meaning of behaviour as a form of communication used by children who cannot find other ways of communicating their confusion and distress.
  • We work with a belief in the dynamic nature of individual and group relationships
  • We value and promote an integrated approach to assessment, planning and delivery of services.
  • We are committed to supporting staff through training, professional development, supervision and consultation.
  • We are committed to a way of working which does not punish or judge people and which both respects and enables them to express their unspoken thoughts and feelings.
  • We believe the above must apply to all people who use Mulberry Bush Services no matter what culture, race, religion, gender, ability or age and stage in life people may be at.

Our model of practice:

Since 1948 the Mulberry Bush Approach has continued to evolve and our current work is adapted and highly attuned to the needs of each child and family. Our work is underpinned by psychodynamic principles which enable us to provide an intensive and highly integrated therapeutic milieu. This lived experience includes; group living, education, individual and group therapy, nursing and specialist consultation, and works in close partnership the children’s families and their professional networks.

Enabling the development of meaningful relationships is at the heart of our work. This requires us to place emphasis on understanding our own thoughts, feelings, and behaviour. We incorporate new ideas and current research including trauma informed brain development into our practice, whenever appropriate. This approach sits alongside our belief in the importance of clear boundaries within a planned and predictable environment. These convey a sense of containment and safety that has often been lacking in the children’s lives. We help children to learn to be in a group and conform to its rules and expectations; we help them learn to self-regulate, and we keep children’s enthusiasm and expectations high in relation to their educational achievement. To achieve this, our staff are trained to view behaviour as a communication.

By understanding the emotional meaning of the behaviour, and reflecting on the impact of this with the children, we help the children make sense of their complex inner worlds. This self-reflective stance is built into all our staff support systems. We believe that if our staff are to work effectively with such challenging children, they have to themselves feel valued and supported.

Risk Assessment for Remaining Open During the Coronavirus (COVID-19) Pandemic

You can download a copy of The Mulberry Bush’s Risk Assessment for Remaining Open During the Coronavirus (COVID-19) Pandemic here.

The Mulberry Bush School


Our aim is to reintegrate all children placed with us into an appropriate family and school.