Vulnerable pupils are 'stars' after three years at boarding school

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Dramatic evidence that Britain's most vulnerable children succeed when sent to state or private boarding schools is revealed in research published today.

A report charting the academic progress made by 97 children from some of the most deprived homes shows that after three years in boarding schools most were performing better than the average for their age.

More than a third were among the top 25 per cent for their year group, although 70 per cent were diagnosed with severe emotional problems when they started at their schools. The findings of the first detailed research on vulnerable children in boarding schools come after Lord Adonis, the Schools minister, backed a government pilot project aimed at giving poor children a place at boarding school. Now campaigners want the scheme to expand so 2,000 pupils can benefit.

The children in the research project were all placed in private or state boarding schools by the Royal Wanstead Children's Foundation – which aims to support vulnerable children, mainly from one-parent families, in boarding schools.

In addition to 70 per cent with emotional problems, 60 per cent had been exposed to abusive, threatening or violent behaviour in their home or family environment before starting at boarding school. Most were in the care of mothers with serious mental or physical illnesss and 13 per cent were having to act as "carers" to another sibling or parent.

After three years at boarding school, 85 per cent of the 11- to 17-year-olds were performing better than the average for a child of their age. Thirty-five per cent were in the top 25 per cent for their age group. The report, Breaking Through, says the children were "star performers" within three years.

Colin Morrison, chairman of the foundation, said: "I call on ministers ... to provide means-tested grants to enable more children who are not in local authority care to attend boarding school. We calculate that within the existing boarding school provision in the UK there is capacity for an extra 2,000 vulnerable children who could be accommodated with just a little additional funding."

Lord Adonis began talks with state and private boarding schools over opening their doors to children in care last year – and said many were keen to back the idea. He said: "Such placements come at a price – but they could prove good value in terms of greater stability and educational success for looked-after children in the right circumstances."