The Department for Education is sponsoring an information service to help local authorities collaborate with charities in order to place vulnerable children in state and independent boarding schools.
The “Boarding School Partnerships” service will launch its digital service early in 2017, in collaboration with the Boarding Schools’ Association and the charities, Royal National Children’s Foundation (RNCF), SpringBoard Bursary Foundation, Buttle UK and Reedham Children’s Trust.
The site and associated information and research will give local authorities access to the information, advice and expertise they need in order to evaluate the suitability of boarding school for vulnerable young people. It will also help them to secure places at appropriate schools. There are over 75,000 students boarding in UK schools, 5,000 of which attend state boarding schools.
Boarding School Partnerships is being chaired by Colin Morrison, until recently chair of the RNCF and also a former beneficiary of boarding schooling funded by Essex County Council. The project is being guided by an Advisory Panel comprising representatives of the charities, boarding schools and local authorities.
The four boarding school charities currently support some 600 vulnerable young children at more than 150 state and independent boarding schools throughout the UK (“Assisted Boarding”). It is believed that local authorities currently support fewer than 100 young people in boarding schools.
Lord Nash, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Schools, says: “As a south London boy who had no thoughts of boarding until my mother died and I was sent away to a boarding school where I was certainly the only child who had not previously boarded and one of the very few not to have failed to get into Eton, I was regarded as a right pleb – but I fairly quickly learnt to appreciate the experience and I know how much good it did me and how much more trouble I would have probably got into had I gone to school at home. So my personal experience leads me to be highly supportive of the boarding experience and all the evidence is that it can be very transformative for the right children.”
It is clear that these young people benefit from the high levels of pastoral care, individual attention and education on offer at boarding schools throughout the UK
Colin Morrison added: ““Some 30 years ago, local authorities funded at least 20,000 vulnerable young people in boarding schools. Since then, the charities have sought to meet the need by supporting thousands of disadvantaged children in hundreds of state and independent boarding schools throughout the UK.
“Research has shown: First, many of these young boarders might otherwise have eventually needed to be taken into local authority care. Secondly, these young people have tended to grasp their golden opportunity with both hands and frequently out-perform their boarding school peers across a range of social and educational criteria.
“While boarding school would never be appropriate for all young people, whether vulnerable or not, it is clear that these young people benefit from the high levels of pastoral care, individual attention and education on offer at boarding schools throughout the UK. This work shows how boarding school really can help transform the lives and prospects of many more vulnerable young people than it does currently.”
Robin Fletcher, chief executive of the Boarding Schools Association, also commented: “Britain’s boarding schools provide an unrivalled education and the kind of individual attention, security and structure that can especially help young people who have had a difficult start to their lives.
“The involvement of the charities and some local authorities in boarding school placements shows just what can be achieved and we look forward to doing even more.”