Boarding schools to offer places to children in care

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Children in care will be given places at some of Britain's top private boarding schools under a deal to be announced by the Government tomorrow.

Ministers will reveal they have reached agreement with more than 50 schools to take in vulnerable children who could otherwise face years in council care. Ten local authorities have agreed to back the scheme by seeking boarding placements for children in their care.

The scheme has been devised as an attempt to overcome the often appalling educational standards achieved by children in care. A survey by Barnardo's, the children's charity, revealed that after 11 years of compulsory schooling 80 per cent leave without any qualifications. In addition, 10 per cent have attended 10 or more schools during their educational lifetime as they are moved from foster home to foster home.

Kerr Fulton-Peebles, headmaster of one of the schools in the scheme, King Edward's School in Witley, Surrey, said: "A boarding education of the style provided by the best boarding schools in Britain - both state and independent - will give [these] young people a real chance to free themselves from the restrictions of their difficult circumstances."

Under the scheme, any youngster chosen for a boarding school place will be able to visit it first, and may spend the night there before starting at the school.

About 100 pupils will be admitted to the schools in the scheme. Education experts said it was likely to help children who were orphaned, left with a single parent who could not cope or were in the care of grandparents finding it difficult to manage looking after them every day.

Alan Johnson, the Secretary of State for Education, who narrowly missed being taken into care himself after being orphaned (his 16-year-old sister was allowed to look after him in a council flat) and the Schools minister, Andrew Adonis, are keen on the scheme.

John Harris, director of children's services in Hertfordshire - one of the 10 authorities in the scheme - said: "Boarding placements can enable a child's family to continue to fulfil their responsibilities even when they are prevented from providing full-time care."