Behind the headlines

Having appeared to go lukewarm on the idea, the government has
put boarding school places for children in care back on the agenda.
Education secretary Charles Clarke is understood to have raised the
issue once again with Alistair Cooke, general secretary of the
Independent Schools Council.

The idea has met with qualified approval from schools and child
care organisations. Adrian Underwood, director of the Boarding
Schools Association, said the proposal would only take off if
accompanied by a directive or guidance from the government. But
selection procedures would have to be in place because not every
child in care would be suitable for the boarding school route. One
of the attractions for the government will be the cheapness of
boarding schools compared to residential child care. Underwood said
that it costs around £20,000 a year to send a child to
boarding school compared to £100,000 for a residential care
placement. Many child care organisations see the proposal as a way
of improving the life chances of children in care and increasing
their stability in the system.

Phil Frampton, national chairperson, Care Leavers
“It highlights the failure of the current system to
provide stability for most children in care and in particular to
provide a proper education. This is another unfortunate step
towards the private sector, but in general I’d be in favour of the
boarding school proposal as long as children are consulted on
whether they want to go to a boarding school and there is adequate
independent advocacy for them. It’s not a new idea. It’s just
another form of care.”

Bill Badham, development officer, National Youth

“Why shouldn’t local councillors as corporate parents choose what
education they think best for young people in their care? It could
turn out to be more cost effective, could improve attainment,
increase numbers of foster carers and open up private institutions
to greater public scrutiny, with formal complaints and advocacy
procedures. And the boarding schools might benefit from greater
diversity – as well as from public finance. But why am I not
convinced? Because we should improve the quality of state schools
and ensure the young people have a choice over their own education.
Now there is a radical idea.”

Martin Green, chief executive, Counsel and Care for the

“It’s a very interesting idea. The Thatcherite revolution is
continuing apace without Margaret Thatcher. There would need to be
a very clear plan on how children are going to be integrated within
the system and it certainly wouldn’t be a good option for those
with very high level needs around antisocial behaviour or other
serious support needs. Safeguards would have to be put in place to
make sure the children are protected from bullying and

Felicity Collier, chief executive, Baaf Adoption and
“We do know that one of the factors that can increase
resilience in children is a stable and successful school
experience. However, it is essential that any looked-after child in
a boarding school has an effective advocate and mentor, otherwise
the feelings of powerlessness and isolation could be very great. I
would want to give this plan a cautious thumbs up.”

Julia Ross, executive director for health and social care,
London Borough of Barking and Dagenham
“The most important thing as always is meeting the
individual needs of children in the best way possible. On occasions
that might well be through attendance at a specific boarding school
as long as that boarding school can meet the needs of that child. I
think we should be as flexible as we can and indeed more flexible
than we have been in the past but not take a block-purchasing
approach to any such facilities.”

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