Government considers plan to send children in care to boarding schools

Looked-after children’s charities have questioned plans being
considered by the government to send children in care to boarding
schools, warning they could create a “them and us” situation.

Education secretary Charles Clarke sees the plan as a possible
solution to improving the educational attainment of looked-after
children and reducing the risk of them developing problems in later
life. It could also save councils money – it costs up to
£100,000 a year to support a child in a care home, while even
top boarding school fees are only a fifth of that.

Officials from the Department for Education and Skills have
contacted the Boarding Schools Association (BSA) to ask whether it
would be feasible for councils to buy boarding school places for
young people living in care homes.

But director of Voice of the Child in Care John Keniss said that
sending children away could disrupt contact with their families and
would only help in a handful of cases.

“It would not be a mainstream solution as children from the care
system come from a very different background, and would be in a
totally alien environment,” Keniss added.

However, Jane Suffian, director of care leavers charity First Key,
said problems over how looked-after children would be integrated
into the boarding school system were not insurmountable.

“There is a danger it could become an ‘us’ and ‘them’ situation but
that could be addressed if it was carefully thought through,” she

Adrian Underwood, national director of the BSA, said that while the
move would not be appropriate for all looked after children it
could benefit up to 2,000 at any one time.

“In the 1970s we had many children at private schools supported by
local education authorities, but that practice seems to have died
out and many of us in the sector feel that is a great shame,” he

The proposal is also included in a report by Liberal Democrat
social services spokesman Paul Burstow, who is calling for it to be

The report states that two out of three looked after children will
leave school with no GCSEs, over half will be unemployed, and a
third end up in prison at a cost of £730m a year. 

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