Boarding school scheme for children in care expanded

Children in care will be able to receive mentoring or scholarships from some of the country’s top independent schools

Published on 5th December 2018

Children in care could receive scholarships from independent schools under new proposals between councils and schools.

Children and Families Minister Nadhim Zahawi launched a national scheme between independent schools and councils which will enable children in care to receive mentoring or scholarships from some of the country’s top independent schools.

Existing schemes that already offer opportunities to children in care will be expanded so as many as 1,000 independent schools could be involved.

Children and Families Minister Nadhim Zahawi said: "Children in care often find themselves marginalised, struggling to make a success of themselves at school through no fault of their own but because of the chaotic start to their lives.

"Your background should not determine your future. I am living proof that the right support at the right time can transform a life – as an immigrant child I struggled in school, and now, as the Minister responsible for children in care, I am determined they too have every chance to fulfil their potential.

"We need to dream much bigger for these vulnerable children and raise ambition and belief in what they can achieve - whether that means school scholarships, mentoring or help applying to university. Many independent schools are already putting this in action, so this new scheme will help even more provide that stability," he added.

Looked-after children who display particular gifts in subjects will be helped to access specialist schools or facilities.

The proposals build on a successful 10-year project run by the Boarding Schools Partnerships and Norfolk County Council, where young people who were either in care or at risk of going into care were taken off the council’s risk register after at least three years in a boarding school. A higher proportion of looked-after children who were at boarding schools achieved A* to C grades in GCSE maths and English, compared to all looked-after children in 2016.

There will also be a network of regional hubs established in 2019 to focus on improving these young people’s academic outcomes. Up to 10 of these hub areas will be created through partnerships between councils, independent and boarding schools, social workers and Virtual School Heads.

In these areas, more children in care will be offered places at partner independent or boarding schools, but will also benefit from meaningful opportunities and activities from these schools without attending as pupils – in recognition that boarding full time may not always be the best option for every child.

Children in care will be able to access academic support, with a particular focus on tutoring, mentoring or contributions towards activities in the school holidays as well as activities they will benefit from that help to widen their extra-curricular skills, such as work experience opportunities, targeted help with writing UCAS statements, or debating clubs. Children in care will also be able to access the independent schools’ sports, drama or music facilities.

The plans will also provide schools with advice and guidance on how to target bursaries towards looked-after children. They will also provide options between partners for funding these places, using the Boarding Schools Partnerships model as an example.

Head of Highgate School, part of the hubs working group, Adam Pettitt, said: "Too often young people find themselves shut out of the Higher Education and employment opportunities that are accessible to peers who have not experienced traumatic experiences in their young lives. Highgate’s long-standing Chrysalis Accelerator programme provides a model for other independent schools to consider when exploring ways to engage with these especially vulnerable young people."

"Independent day schools have a tremendous amount to offer these young people and our hope would be to see the Chrysalis Accelerator inspire other independent day schools to adapt their framework to set up similar programmes across the country, responding to areas of particular need on a local level," he added.

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