Giving vulnerable children a boarding school place can dramatically improve their future

In the past, similar schemes have failed to get off the ground. Last year, a multi-million pound Government backed project to give disadvantaged children free places at top boarding schools was axed.Buttle UK, the charity leading the project, said it was unable to proceed because local authorities were not willing to refer children.It is thought that the new research will encourage local authorities across the country to work more closely with boarding schools. “We have now got a body of longitudinal research we hope will help other local authorities see what the benefits can be,” Mr Read said. Giving vulnerable children a boarding school place can dramatically improve their future, a Government study has found.  Out of a cohort of youngsters who were previously in care and then sent to a boarding school, the majority were subsequently taken off their local council’s risk register, the research is expected to show.The study, which is due to be published this summer, follows the progress of 52 children who looked after by Norfolk Council Council and sent to boarding schools.Martin Reader, who is chair of the Boarding School Association (BSA), said that the study shows how boarding has a “transformative benefit” for children.The research was commissioned by the Department for Education (DfE) and the Boarding Schools Partnership, a scheme which will see children from vulnerable families enroll at some of Britain’s top boarding schools including Harrow, Rugby, Benenden and Eton College.Under the initiative, school fees will be covered by local councils. It is intended to save public money in the long-run by avoiding the costs of expensive local authority care.Mr Reader, headmaster of the £37,000-a-year Cranleigh School in Surrey, said that boarding schools are “genuinely thrilled” when “one of our pupils from a disadvantaged background has prospects transformed”. More than 80 councils have signed up to the partnership scheme so far, which is backed by the  schools minister Lord Agnew and Lord Adonis, a former Labour education minister. Currently, only about 100 children go to private boarding schools paid for by councils but Colin Morrison, chair of the BSP, hopes this will climb to about 1,000 a year within five years.The Boarding Schools Partnership initiative is reminiscent of the Assisted Places scheme, set up in the 1980s under Margaret Thatcher’s Government. Under the scheme, children were provided with free or subsidised places to private schools if they achieved a top score in the entrance exam.The scheme was axed by Labour in 1997, with the then Prime Minister Tony Blair arguing that it was elitist and a waste of public money.  Under the initiative, school fees will be covered by local councils Credit:Klaus Vedfelt Under the initiative, school fees will be covered by local councils  Addressing headteachers at the BSA’s annual conference in Brighton this week, he will say: “As privileged institutions we cannot be seen only to serve ourselves”.  Mr Reader said that for the past decade, boarding school have been offering places to local authorities but without much uptake.  “What has been happening is that probably for about ten years now, we have been talking with local authorities,” he told The Sunday Telegraph.“We have been saying that our schools are prepared to take on looked after children. But it would be fair to say that the local authorities have not necessarily taken it up.“There will always be the question of ‘will a child fit in a boarding school’? There will be an agenda out there which says all boarding schools are full of really privileged children”. Want the best of The Telegraph direct to your email and WhatsApp? Sign up to our free twice-daily  Front Page newsletter and new  audio briefings. read more