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Fund more assisted boarders to help vulnerable young people, heads tell ministers

Some of the country’s leading state and independent boarding schools have called on the government to “substantially increase” the number of assisted-boarding places to help more vulnerable young people.

The programme, which operates in more than 100 boarding schools across the UK, provides places to disadvantaged teens who are on the edge of being taken into care.

And a survey, conducted by charity the Royal National Children’s Foundation, which currently provides long-term support to 350 students, showed more than nine out of 10 boarding-school heads wanted to see the government invest more into the assisted-boarding scheme.

The scheme allows schools to offer places to young people for the duration of their secondary career, and the study showed 87 per cent of boarding-school heads said they would be “extremely or very likely” to increase the number of assisted boarders if the government provided a “small contribution”.

The move was backed by former schools minister Lord Adonis, the president of the RNCF, who said that the scheme has a tremendous impact on young people’s lives.

“I strongly support an expansion in assisted boarding, in suitable state and private boarding schools, and in boarding houses attached to day schools, because it can make a transformational difference to the life chances of children from vulnerable families,” he said.

Last year it was revealed that more than half of local authorities had signed up to the assisted-boarder scheme, which will see more than 1,000 young people placed in boarding schools by 2018.

According to the RNCF’s own figures, it costs between £40,000 and £120,000 a year to place a child in care, whereas assisted-boarding places would cost local authorities between £10,000 and £30,000 a year. 

Among those schools that are part of the assisted-boarding programme are King Edward's School and Reed's School, both of which are in Surrey. Both charge under £28,000 a year for full boarding. 

The charity believes that thousands of young people from challenging backgrounds could be helped by the assisted-boarders programme if the government would provide more funding.

“We have proved successively that boarding school can transform the lives of vulnerable, disadvantaged young people who might otherwise eventually need to be taken into local-authority care,” Colin Morrison, chairman of the RNCF said.

“It's not for all young people, of course, whether vulnerable or not. But we estimate that there are several thousand more vulnerable young people who want to benefit from assisted boarding – and now we have the schools saying that a relatively small amount of financial aid can open up these opportunities.”

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