An important new charity, called the SpringBoard Bursary Foundation has been established to allow more disadvantaged children to benefit from a boarding school education.
Education Secretary Michael Gove said:
“There are a number of disadvantaged and looked-after children who could benefit from an expansion in boarding. I strongly welcome the creation of The SpringBoard Bursary Foundation, and believe it will play a vital role in widening opportunity among some of Britain’s most deprived communities”.
Lord Adonis, the former Labour education minister, adds:
"As someone who was able to attend a boarding school thanks to a foundation dedicated to the welfare of disadvantaged children, I know how independent, grassroots schemes like this can transform a young person’s life for the better. I am delighted to endorse The SpringBoard Bursary Foundation and very much look forward to serving as a member of its advisory panel."
Lord Adonis had an article about it in The Times on Tuesday.
The offer to pay the fees removes a financial excuse for a Local Authority refusing to give their children in care the opportunity of a boarding school education.
Not that the financial excuse was very convincing anyway. A foster carer is paid around £300 a week for each child, in various fees and allowances – although the amount varies a lot around the country. If cover was only for the 12 weeks holiday rather than 52 weeks of the year not all foster carers would be interested, but some might prefer it. That would be a saving of £12,000. Then 11% of children in care are in institutional children's homes at an annual cost per child per year of £126,000 (Eton costs £31,000 a year).
Often state boarding schools charge less than £12,000 – they charge for lodging with the Government paying the fees. The independent boarding schools charge more – but when placing children with them the local authority can also claim from central Government the cost of state education per pupil of around £5,000.
Anyway it is rather harder for social workers to sustain the objection on grounds of cost if the school fees are paid by charities.
It is also hard to deny that it is in the interests of the children. The Royal National Children's Foundation currently funds 350 vulnerable children to attend boarding school. Their research suggests an astonishing level of success. A study of 97 vulnerable children assessed them as being at or above the average of their peers on all social and educational criteria within three years of going to boarding school.
What is in nobody's interest is to have constant visits to the schools from social workers giving orders and demanding special arrangements for the children in care. Quite understandably the schools would find this intolerable and the child in question resent being marked out as different.
The Care Planning, Placement and Case Review Regulations 2010 state that visits to foster carers take place every six weeks, or in ‘long term’ foster care, every three months. These regulations should not apply to boarding schools who already face ample safeguards.
This new charity is a fantastic opportunity for children in care. Social workers must not be allowed to deny these opportunities out of ideological spite.