Headlines: November 7th, 2006

PATHFINDER PROJECT LOOKS AT BOARDING PLACES FOR VULNERABLE CHILDREN

 

Ten local authorities are involved from this week in the next stage of a project looking at how the provision of boarding school places might be used to improve life chances for some vulnerable children and young people.

The Children, Young People and Families Minister Beverley Hughes has welcomed the councils’ participation over the next two years.It is thought that some children who have multiple needs and some of those living in families with a high risk of breakdown or of being moved in to care might benefit from going to boarding school but current use of this sort of provision varies widely between local authorities. It is also recognised that boarding provision isn’t suitable for all young people.

The pathfinder project has been set up to establish protocols for setting up such arrangements between councils and boarding schools and to determine under what circumstances such a solution is suitable. It will also look at how boarding provision can benefit vulnerable children and young people and aims to arrive at a better understanding of the expertise and ability to support such young people that boarding schools need to be able to offer. The project will also look at ways in which authorities can maintain a stable base for children in their home area.

The Government will work with ten local authorities, Barking and Dagenham, Bexley, Buckinghamshire, Dudley, Hertfordshire, Northumberland, Southwark, Suffolk, Surrey and Westminster, and with 51 schools, which have agreed to take part.

Beverley Hughes said the majority of parents wanted their children to be supported within their own communities and by a local school but in some cases this was not the best way to meet a particular child’s needs. “There is evidence to show that attending a boarding school may be an appropriate way to help some of these children and prevent family breakdown or a move in to the care system,” she said.

Welcoming the involvement of the authorities and the schools, she said boarding provision would not be right for every vulnerable child so the pathfinder project would look carefully at when it might be appropriate as well as at what the benefits for the young person might be and to ensure the system was being used consistently across local authorities. “The needs and welfare of the young person must remain our primary concern. We need to make sure the schools have the expertise and ability to support these children and that any child who is boarding maintains a stable base in their home authority,” she added.