Pupils from broken homes to be sent to top boarding schools
Expanded scheme aims to give 1,000 vulnerable children free places at top private and state providers
Richard Garner has been Education Editor of The Independent for 12 years and writing about the subject for 34 years. Before becoming a journalist, he worked as a disc jockey in London pubs and clubs and for a hospital radio station. His main hobbies are cricket (watching these days) and theatre. On his days off, he is most likelt to be found at Lord’s or the King’s Head Theatre Club.
Thursday 21 June 2012
Up to 1,000 vulnerable children are to be offered free boarding school places after councils performed a U-turn over subsidising places at top private schools.
Three in five local authorities across the country have agreed to back a scheme whereby children from broken homes or whose parents are on the verge of splitting up are offered free places at either private or state boarding schools.
Under the scheme, they can win places at schools such as Wellington College and Rugby, whose head teachers – Dr Anthony Seldon and Patrick Derham – support the project.
Its biggest supporter, however, is King Edward's School in Witley, which offers 40 places. Head teacher John Attwater said: "Fundamentally, boarding creates an environment where the obstacles, the disadvantage, the stunting factors in a child's development can be removed or replaced and room for a childhood created again."
In all, 88 local authorities have pledged their support for the scheme – a far cry from a decade ago, when many closed the door on such initiatives because they opposed sending children to the private sector to be educated.
Former Labour Schools minister Andrew Adonis, who won a bursary to a private boarding school in Oxford after spending part of his early life in a children's home, told a conference yesterday: "It was an ideological thing. They didn't like the idea of placing children in private schools. I hope we will all accept that is outdated thinking."
Lord Adonis, who initiated a "pathfinder" project aimed at securing boarding school places for vulnerable children while he was in power, admitted he had been disappointed with the results.
"I didn't think we did nearly enough," he said. "We know how it can be done. We just need to make it happen."
At present about 325 children from vulnerable homes have been offered places at 100 independent and state boarding schools. The aim is to raise this to 1,000 by 2018.
A report by the Royal National Children's Foundation and the charity Buttle UK, who are jointly pioneering the initiative, said: "Assisted boarding may have helped prevent the need for many of these young people eventually to be taken into local authority care."
The children will either be taken into temporary foster care during the school holidays or in some cases, the offer of a boarding school place may be enough to shore up threatened relationships.
One pupil who benefited from the scheme said: "My childhood was spent in a home where there was serious domestic violence, resulting in the near loss of my mother's life.
"It provided me with a second family. I've started to play basketball. With the help of my coaches, and, if things go well, I might hopefully represent England in the future."
"We need to get a head of steam behind this," said Lord Adonis. "What we need to do is scale up provision. I think we could see this turn into quite a big initiative over the next few years."
Tim Loughton, Children and Families minister, added: "We're trying to overhaul the whole of the care system."
Boston Marathon runner's search for mystery man she kissed ends with letter from his wife
Italian police 'reveal' what Jesus looked like as a young boy
Florida couple forced to register as sex offenders for having sex on public beach
Mysterious 'X-Files' sounds heard miles above the Earth
Met Gala 2015: Beyoncé manages to out-skimp Rihanna, Miley and Kim Kardashian with near-naked ensemble
In defence of liberal democracy
General Election 2015: Post-election 'shambles' looms as 70 per cent of voters say SNP 'should not be able to veto UK government policies'
The Rothschild Libel: Why has it taken 200 years for an anti-Semitic slur that emerged from the Battle of Waterloo to be dismissed?
General Election 2015: UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power, Labour warns
General election live: SNP suspends two members for disrupting Labour rally
Schools forced to act as 'miniature welfare states' with teachers buying underwear and even haircuts for poor pupils
- 4 Frankie Boyle on Scottish independence: 'In the Interests of Unity, F**k Off'
- 5 Florida couple forced to register as sex offenders for having sex on public beach
£30 - 40k (DOE) + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Solutions Consultan...
£30 - 35k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...
£40000 - £48000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Systems Engineer - Linux ...
£40000 - £50000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Linux Systems Administrat...