The Cotswold Community was residential school for male young offenders near Ashton Keynes, Wiltshire. Using a therapeutic community model it provided training and care for boys age 9-16 who displayed symptoms of attachment disorder, attention deficit disorder and challenging behaviours.
The Community was established as an Approved School in 1942 by the Rainer Foundation. Originally known as the ‘Cotswold School’ the site and buildings were acquired from a Bruderhof Community of German-Christian refugees. In 1967 the Managing Body decided to undergo a fundamental change of regime at the School, a result in part of the high re-conviction rates of ex-pupils. In 1968 they appointed Richard Balbernie as Principle with a view to transforming the school into a therapeutic community offering a total treatment plan involving remedial and social education, a positive group living experience, individual and family casework and community links. Balbernie encountered resistance from both staff and pupils who clung to the traditional hierarchy and its system of punishments and rewards. Consultants were brought in to support the transition. Barbara Docker-Drysdale, founder of the Mulberry Bush School, a therapeutic community in Oxfordshire, was influential in changing the pupil’s entrenched sub-culture. Ken Rice, Isabel Menzies-Lyth and Dr Eric Miller of the Tavistock Institute set to work on the staff culture, reimaging the management structure to support the therapeutic task. In 1969 the Rainer Foundation removed its support and the Community came under the remit of Wiltshire County Council.
By 1986 the Community was home to 40 boys. They were referred by Child Guidance Clinics and local authority Assessment Centres throughout the UK, although the majority were from inner city areas. During term time the boys lived in four small group living households, returning to families and foster families during the school holidays.
Richard Balbernie retired in 1985 and was succeeded by John Whitwell who worked at the Community from 1972 until 1999. The Community closed in July 2011.