Looked after children to benefit from new mentoring schemes

Children and Families Minister Nadhim Zahawi has launched a national scheme between independent schools and councils to improve the offer they make to young people growing up in care.

This means that children in care could receive mentoring or scholarships from some of the country’s best schools as part of a wider drive to raise outcomes and ambitions for these vulnerable young people, who often struggle to get ahead in mainstream education as a result of their challenging upbringing.

As part of the announcement, the government will create a network of up to 10 regional hubs in 2019 to focus on improving these young people’s academic outcomes. The plan hopes to reflect the success of a ten year project between Norfolk County Council and the Boarding Schools Partnerships, where young people who were either in care or at risk of going into care were taken off the council’s risk register after at least three years in a boarding school.

In each new hub, arrangements will be put in place setting out the services available to children in care, including: the academic support they will receive, with a particular focus on tutoring, mentoring or contributions towards activities in the school holidays; the activities they will benefit from that help to widen their extra-curricular skills, such as work experience opportunities, targeted help with writing UCAS statements, or debating clubs; and their access to independent schools’ sports, drama or music facilities.

Speaking at the Boarding Schools Partnership conference, Zahawi said: “Children in care often find themselves marginalised, struggling to make a success of themselves at school through no fault of their own but because of the chaotic start to their lives. Your background should not determine your future. I am living proof that the right support at the right time can transform a life – as an immigrant child I struggled in school, and now, as the minister responsible for children in care, I am determined they too have every chance to fulfil their potential.

“We need to dream much bigger for these vulnerable children and raise ambition and belief in what they can achieve - whether that means school scholarships, mentoring or help applying to university. Many independent schools are already putting this in action, so this new scheme will help even more provide that stability.”