Private schools should provide boarding places for thousands of looked-after children as a way of resisting pressure to strip them of their charitable status, the government has said. The BBC reports.
Education Minister Nadhim Zahawi claimed that Labour “would never be able to abolish” private schools if they helped to improve the life chances of vulnerable children.
Mr Zahawi praised 40 independent schools for taking part in a government-backed scheme that provides places for looked-after children.
The education minister told Newsnight that hundreds of other private schools should also join the Boarding School Partnership if they wanted to survive in a hostile political environment.
Mr Zahawi told Newsnight: “I think schools that are independent in this country need to think about what more they can do… It is an ideal opportunity to come and help deliver the greatest outcome. It is incumbent on all of us in a country as civilised, as wealthy as our country – we should be providing the best opportunities for these kids not simply managing them.”
Leading private schools, such as Eton College and Rugby School, have signed up to the Boarding School Partnership which offers places to looked-after children, that is children in the care of a local authority.
Local authorities pay 60% of the fees – with individual schools providing a bursary of 40%. Norfolk County Council placed 52 vulnerable or “at risk” children in boarding schools over a 10-year period.
It found that nearly two-thirds came off the “at risk” register after three years while GCSE grades improved substantially when compared with the wider cohort of “at risk” children.
Francis Green, of the Centre for Global Higher Education, said that private schools needed to go much further. “It wouldn’t at all be an abolition of the private schools, the schools would still retain their independent governance, and their independence from local authorities and so on and so forth, but they would be obliged to begin to socially integrate so they are not just bastions of privilege,” he told Newsnight.
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