How boarding school can help to improve outcomes

Boarding School Partnerships seeks to give local authority commissioning teams ready access to the expertise and resources of the charities and schools involved in placements of vulnerable young people

These young people can benefit from the structure, community, individual attention and pastoral care of boarding school. Throughout the UK, charities and boarding schools are already supporting up to 1,000 young people. These are vulnerable people some of whom might otherwise eventually need to be taken into local authority care.

The evidence shows that these ‘Assisted Boarders’ frequently out-perform their new boarding school peers on a range of social and educational criteria.

Diverse backgrounds

Boarding school education can be a life-changing experience for young people. It can give pupils from diverse backgrounds a stable, caring and supportive environment in which to succeed and fulfill their potential. There are more than 500 boarding schools in the UK, 38 of which are state maintained schools or academies. Many of these currently support vulnerable young people co-funded by charities or local authorities.

Over the past 10 years, these schools and charities have – with the support of the Department for Education –  participated in a series of initiatives to help share the lessons of Assisted Boarding. These have included the DfE’s former Pathfinder project (2007-10), and RNCF's Assisted Boarding Network (since 2011).

As a result, there has been a small but steady increase in the number of local authorities making boarding school placements. But such activity is frequently constrained by: a lack of knowledge of boarding schooling in local authorities; and by funding issues. Boarding School Partnerships has been launched to help local authorities make boarding placements wherever appropriate. This is consistent with the statutory duty to consider boarding placements for looked after children (Source: Promoting the Education of Looked After Children, Department for Education, July 2014).

When boarding may be appropriate

LA-supported boarding school placements may be appropriate where a young person’s home circumstances are (or at risk of becoming) unsustainable and where there are/is:

  • links with their family network but the links may be fragile or chaotic, and full-time, long-term care by the wider family is not possible
  • generally an average to good educational potential or an identified talent or potential talent
  • good attachments and the ability to make and sustain positive relationships.

Many local authorities that have placed young people in boarding provision believe it is the most appropriate placement, improves outcomes and also is cost-effective. They believe that most of these boarders would not have been on the same trajectory had it not been for the placement.

Boarding schools offer many opportunities including an extended range of education, supervised homework time (“prep”), before and after school activities, individual attention and high quality pastoral care. This is particularly important for vulnerable children coming from seriously adverse home or family circumstances. One virtual school head says: “It is not about saying they will get a better education, because they won’t. It is enabling them to learn there, which wouldn’t normally be possible because of a chaotic home life”.

Identifying those who may (or may not) benefit

The decision about a boarding placement must be made on the basis of careful individual selection and looking at a range of options that would benefit the child in the long term. Every good parent wants the best for their child.

This is true for individual parents whose child may be at risk of entering care in the future, and for local authorities who are corporate parents for looked after children. Local authorities, as corporate parents, have the statutory responsibility to act for, support and look after a child in the same way a good parent would.

It is important for local authorities to ensure that the assessment process for identifying children who may benefit is multi-agency and holistic.

Those who may benefit

Boarding placements may particularly suit those young people who...

  • Can be resilient to the challenges of a busy pace of life and increased workload i.e. have the ability to keep going if things get tough
  • Can cope, for example, with sharing a dormitory; and there should be no major safeguarding concerns with them doing so
  • Can demonstrate self-awareness and the capacity to be aware of the needs of others
  • Have the maturity to see the ‘bigger picture', demonstrate self-control and seek help when it is needed
  • Wish to broaden their horizons, raise their aspirations, improve their academic performance and improve their confidence and social skills
  • Have the confidence to be able to enter into a different cultural and social environment, be open-minded and try new things, show empathy towards others and make new friends
  • Can be motivated and determined to make the most out of the opportunities, face challenges and work hard
  • Are capable eventually of becoming role models for their younger peers.

But boarding school placement has proved successful for many young people close to the edge of care and for some looked after children. Charity professionals and the staff of boarding schools with a track record of Assisted Boarding will be able to help advise you. But, ultimately, boarding school may simply not be 'right' for every young person.

Those less likely to benefit

  • Young people with significant long-term behaviour difficulties may not be suitable for boarding school, particularly if such difficulties are likely to be beyond the capability of a mainstream school to manage.
  • Young people who are in a successful foster placement are not necessarily considered those who would best benefit from a boarding school placement. 

Expertise at your fingertips

Boarding School Partnerships is an information service funded primarily by the Department for Education and is a collaboration with the Boarding Schools’ Association, Buttle UK, Reedham Children’s Trust, and the Royal National Children's SpringBoard Foundation. It is managed by an Advisory Board comprising representatives of charities, schools, local authorities and children’s organisations.

This service gives local authority commissioning teams access to:

  • The opportunities for boarding school placements for young people on or close to the ‘edge of care’
  • The resources, information and expertise with which to assess the appropriateness of such opportunities to individual cases
  • Advice and support from organisations (charities and schools) with experience in boarding placements for vulnerable young people
  • Those local authorities with experience in boarding placements.

We can give you access to the expertise of boarding placements whenever you need it.


The experience of our partner charities, schools and an increasing number of local authorities implies that many more vulnerable young people could benefit from boarding school. Boarding School Partnerships can help local authorities to make boarding placements where appropriate. We encourage you to engage as follows:

  1. Register online all the relevant members of your team or department to ensure they have full access to all the resources on the site and also to qualify for free places at conferences, briefings and training sessions.
  2. Encourage your team members to familiarise themselves with the resources available from the various organisations involved in Boarding School Partnerships.
  3. Nominate one or more people as your authority/ department's designated Lead for Boarding School Partnerships, with responsibility for briefing others on all issues and opportunities relating to boarding school placements
  4. Develop your own authority/ department's criteria for when to enter a case in the online Case Builder as a potential boarding school placement
  5. Establish relationships with charity partners and also boarding schools within, say, 120 miles.
  6. Arrange workshops and/or briefing sessions on Assisted Boarding. Use the Case Studies section of the site to identify those of “your” cases which might be appropriate for boarding school placements
  7. Arrange visits to nearby boarding schools to gain insights into their ethos, facilities and resources and also into the cases of vulnerable young people among their pupils
  8. Arrange discussions and meetings to compare Boarding School Partnerships experience/ expertise with neighbouring local authorities
  9. Please contact us with suggestions, questions or enquiries. We're here to help. Contact us through this web site, the HelpDesk button below, or by email to:

HELPdesk: For advice or information, please email by clicking:Boarding School Partnerships