Academies push for more state boarders

27th July 2007 at 01:00
academies are planning to lead the first expansion in state boarding schools for more than a decade. Three schools have plans to offer boarding places to 200 pupils, with the possibility of more.

Places for 100 boarders are planned for Wellington academy in Tidworth, Wiltshire, when it opens in 2010, with a significant proportion expected to come from military families based in and around the local garrison. The academy is sponsored by Wellington college in Crowthorne, Berkshire, founded in 1859 as a monument to the Duke of Wellington, one of Britain's greatest militrary figures.

Harefield academy at Uxbridge, west London, wants to establish 50 boarding places, rising to 100.

Havelock academy in Grimsby, Lincolnshire, which opens in September, may also offer boarding facilities.

Hilary Moriarty, national director of the Boarding Schools Association, said: "When government talks about extended schools and wrap-around care they acknowledge that many parents struggle to be there as much as they would like.

"Many parents would welcome their children staying in a boarding school and coming home at the weekends. They know they would be well looked after and have access to good facilities."

There are 35 state boarding schools, where parents pay around pound;7,000 a year for their children's board, but tuition is free. The sector benefited from pound;25 million of government money last year to improve facilities at six schools. Sir Cyril Taylor, chairman of the Specialist Schools and Academies Trust, has said he wants academies to offer boarding places to children at risk of being placed in care.

Havelock academy, which is being sponsored by David Ross, deputy chairman of Carphone Warehouse, included boarding in its proposal to run the school.

Nicholas O'Sullivan, who has been recruited to head the academy from St Columba's college, an independent Roman Catholic school at St Albans, Hertfordshire, said the boarding places would be for disadvantaged children.

However, government plans to use existing independent and state boarding schools for children at risk of being put into local authority care are progressing slowly.

Up to 40 children were supposed to be placed in boarding schools from this September, but so far places have been organised for fewer than 10.

Melvyn Roffe, chair of the State Boarding Schools' Association, criticised the idea of academies offering boarding places only to "at risk" children. "A boarding house cannot just be for disadvantaged children because that is not a boarding house, that is a hostel," he said.

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