Looked-after children could be placed in boarding schools

Concerns have been raised at proposals being put before ministers to place vulnerable children in boarding schools. 

A draft paper being prepared by Cyril Taylor, senior advisor to the education secretary Ruth Kelly, suggests thousands of children could be placed at existing boarding schools.

A spokesperson from the Department of Education and Skills said that the government was “keen to explore “ using boarding schools as an alternative to supporting children in care homes.  

The idea is not new, having first been mooted when Charles Clarke was education secretary in 2003, but has now found favour again. The draft proposals are due to be submitted to Ruth Kelly later this month, and have been welcomed by the Boarding Schools Association. A spokesperson from the association said there was a “high degree of interest” from its boarding schools. 

But the children’s charity NCH, while welcoming the attention being given to the education needs of children in care, criticised the government for being overly preoccupied with the proposals. 

 “We are rather puzzled that there seems to be thinking that boarding schools seem to be the answer,” a spokesperson said.

“NCH’s view is that lots of factors need to happen to improve educational outcomes. The idea of providing boarding provision for children in care was abandoned in the 1960s and 1970s.  We hope policy-makers take care to learn the lessons of the past in framing the policies of the future, ” he said. 

A DfES spokesperson defended the proposals. “We are not suggesting that boarding is the answer in all cases; but it’s important that where boarding can help, it should be considered on its merits,” he said.

“Partnerships between the state and private sectors are well-established and successful means of sharing expertise knowledge and experience between the sectors for the benefit of both.”

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