There are 65,520 children in care, costing the taxpayer £3 billion a year. Of these, around 11% are in institutional children's homes at a cost per child per year of £126,000. By comparison Eton costs
£31,000 a year.
While the odd person who has been to Eton may go on to prison, there is something of a contrast whereby children leaving care are more likely to end up in prison than university.
So it seems obvious that sending more children in care to boarding schools makes sense. Yet the ideological hostility of social workers towards independent schools meant only 17 children were able to take the opportunity under the Pathfinder project of Lord Adonis under the last Labour Government.
Will Michael Gove achieve anything more significant?
Earlier this year I wrote about this for The Spectator, and interviewed Colin Morrison of the Assisted Boarding Network. He told me:
"We now have some 27 local authorities signed up for the Assisted Boarding Network and plan to launch it with a conference in London in Spring 2012."
At present, thousands of children are being set up, at huge public expense, for a life of failure – welfare dependency for most, prison for many more. Boarding school offers an alternative path. The greatest obstacle is not the snobbery of these establishments in refusing to take these children but the bigotry of social workers in denying children the chance to go.
Children's Minister Tim Loughton says in The Times(£) he wants a "significant" increase in the number of vulnerable children given the chance of a boarding school education. I hope it is a very significant increase. Not just one or two noughts added to that pathetic figure of 17 – another three noughts on the end would be more like it.