Care Home Pupils To Be Given Places In Top Boarding Schools

Children from broken homes will be given free places at some of the most expensive boarding schools in the country under Government plans announced yesterday by Beverley Hughes, the children’s minister. The Milton Abbey school in Dorset, which charges up to £24,000-a-year, and Cheltenham College, Gloucestershire, which has annual fees of £23,280, are among the 51 schools expected to take part.

Children at risk of going into care will be assessed by local authorities before being offered a place, in a move intended to address poor educational standards of pupils in care homes.

However, independent schools insisted yesterday that it would not lead to the admission of children who were out of control.

Hilary Moriarty, national director of the Boarding Schools Association, said: “We are talking about children in difficult situations — not difficult children.”

Other leading independent schools involved include Fettes College preparatory school, Edinburgh, the Royal Masonic Schools for Girls, Hertfordshire, and Christ’s Hospital, Sussex.

The initiative follows comments by Alan Johnson, the Education Secretary, that schools could lose their charitable status — worth millions of pounds in tax breaks — if they fail to show enough community spirit.

Simon Smith, deputy headmaster of Brighton College, which is taking part, said: “We have to be sure that the children selected to take part will benefit from the sort of education our schools provide. It would be both unfair and unwise to select a child who could not cope.”

About 100 children from 10 local authority areas will take part in a two-year pilot project. Fees will be paid between the school, local authorities and educational charities, although parents may be asked to make a “nominal contribution”.

A recent survey by Barnados found that four out of five children from care homes fail to achieve any qualifications after 11 years of compulsory schooling.