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Last Updated: Monday, 6 November 2006, 15:48 GMT
Boarding schools in care project
Fettes College (college photo)
Tony Blair's old school, Fettes College, is among those in the project
Children whose families are at risk of breaking down are to be sent to boarding school under a pilot scheme.

Around 100 children will take part along with 51 top private schools in the two-year government project.

Ten local authorities in England will also work on the scheme, aimed at children at risk of going into care.

Children's Minister Beverley Hughes said there was evidence that going to a boarding school may help to prevent family breakdowns or a move into care.

Charity Barnardos said it could help some - but warned against the "wholesale shipping out" of children.

Ms Hughes said: "Most parents want their children to be supported in their community and by a local school, but for some children this may not be the best way to meet their specific needs."

'Money well spent'

Research by Barnardos suggests that eight out of 10 children in care leave school with no qualifications.

Schools minister Lord Adonis has previously said it would be "money well spent" if boarding schools could help improve results for children in care - but the government accepts it would not be the right option for every child.

Ms Hughes said: "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."

The schools involved in the project include Fettes College, Brighton College, Cheltenham College and the Royal Masonic School for Girls.

'Chaotic lives'

They will work with the Department for Education and Skills and local authorities including Westminster, Barking and Dagenham, Dudley and Hertfordshire.

Children's charity Barnardos runs four residential schools and said they could help provide stability for children.

But principal policy officer Pam Hibbert said: "Boarding school places might be appropriate for some looked after children and others who have chaotic lives but cannot be seen as the only solution to the educational under-achievement of these children."

She added: "We must be wary of a return to the practice of wholesale 'shipping out' of children to 52-week boarding schools.

"And where boarding school is to be considered there must be robust systems in place to ensure that the links to home and local communities are maintained."

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