The rising number of residential school placements has been challenged by Perth and Kinross as the average cost soars to pound;65,000 a year. Some 24 pupils are currently sent away to specialist schools, out of 179 looked-after children under the council's control.
An audit has revealed that half the placements could have been avoided if suitable foster care or alternative education had been available and three-quarters could have been shortened by community provision.
Staff believed that children's panel members often moved too hastily to the option of a residential school placing. The council now advises that reports to hearings need to be more explicit about the needs of children and the resources involved.
It also questions why its interventions often fail to prevent young people being sent away. More than nine out of 10 had been subject to intensive community support before their dispatch to residential placement.
A further study of young people looked after away frm home reveals that 40 per cent say they had no help with education either during or after their care.
Not unexpectedly, the majority viewed schools negatively. More than one in three (35 per cent) said they hated school and another 22 per cent said it was pointless. Some 86 per cent reported problems at school and one in three had been in trouble every day. Four out of 10 said they had been bullied and 46 per cent had problems with teachers.
In contrast, 65 per cent say they were encouraged to do well in education. Views of school changed dramatically after they left. The majority (53 per cent) said they regretted not sticking in. Only 11 per cent had not been affected by the change.
The study concludes that levels of attendance, moves of school and difficulties in class had an impact on the type and level of qualifications. Some 57 per cent left with no qualifications.
A Scottish Executive investigation into looked-after children is now at draft stage.