Children in care could receive mentoring or scholarships from some of the top independent schools in the country under new plans set to be announced today.
They include a national scheme between councils and private schools to improve the life chances of looked-after children, and more cut-price boarding places.
Children and families minister Nadhim Zahawi is set to announce a network of regional hubs, to be launched in 2019, which will be designed to focus on improving the academic outcomes of children in care.
It will include those who display particular gifts in subjects from sports to science, helping them to access specialist schools or facilities.
In an address to the Boarding Schools Partnership conference in London today, Mr Zahawi is expected to say: “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."
Today’s announcement will set out plans to establish up to 10 hubs areas, with partnerships between councils, independent 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 receive 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.
Services available to children in care could include academic support, work experience opportunities, help writing Ucas statements and access to independent schools' sports, drama or music facilities.
And more schools have signed up for a bursaries scheme will see private schools offer a 40 per cent discount on the full fees.
The cut-price boarding places are set to be available from 65 independent schools from September 2019.
Colin Morrison, chair of Boarding School Partnerships, who himself once attended boarding school paid for by Essex County Council, said: "We have long believed that many more vulnerable young people should have the opportunity of boarding school and, now, these Partnership Bursaries make it possible.
“After years of talking about the potential, the shared enthusiasm of these boarding schools and of social workers and local authorities now makes it possible for hundreds more young people to benefit from the structure, sense of community and education at these fine schools."