We are here to help local authorities make the most of these opportunities for vulnerable young people
Decades ago, as the youngest son of an impoverished single-parent mother, I was funded at boarding school by Essex County Council together with the charity that became the Royal National Children's Foundation (RNCF). I was just six years of age. But the following 11 years at boarding school quite simply changed my life and I owe everything to the structure, security and community it provided.
That is why I was so proud, three decades after I left school, to become chair of the RNCF. I led the charity for 15 years during which we co-funded – with schools and other charities - more than 1,000 vulnerable young people throughout their secondary education at hundreds of state and independent boarding schools. The charity (which has recently merged with SpringBoard to form the Royal National Children's SpringBoard Foundation) also launched the Assisted Boarding Network, an earlier initiative for boarding school charities to offer support to local authorities.
I have become passionate about what boarding school can do for many vulnerable young people who are close to the edge of local authority care, because I have seen how transformative it can be.
Boarding placements may have prevented the need for many charity-supported young people eventually to have been taken into care. They may also have helped keep many troubled family units together. But the whole process of deciding whether boarding school would be appropriate for a young person and then securing a suitable place for them can be difficult, to say the least. It also represents a long-term funding challenge, not least for local authorities.
That is why I am pleased to be leading Boarding School Partnerships on behalf of the Department for Education, boarding schools, and charities. The objective of this information service is to help local authorities evaluate – and facilitate – boarding school placements, with the help and support of the charities and schools which are so heavily involved in ‘Assisted Boarding’. We are here to enable local authority professionals to become ‘expert’ in boarding school placements, however infrequently they may need to consider them.
We are also pleased to have established "Partnership Bursaries" with many leading independent boarding schools agreeing to offer 40% bursaries to local authorities.
These initiatives are just the beginning of a network which aims eventually to provide comprehensive support, training and research on boarding school placements for local authorities. But this voluntary, government-funded partnership depends also on your support to help us provide just the service you need. Please give us your feedback so we can continually improve the effectiveness of Boarding School Partnerships.
Colin Morrison OBE was a boarder at the former Royal Wanstead School, funded jointly by Essex County Council and the Royal National Children's SpringBoard Foundation. He was Chair of RNCF during 2001-2016. He is a former journalist and CEO of media companies. You can read his personal account of boarding school on Huffington Post.
He can be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org