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Norfolk school head slams Tory proposals

PUBLISHED: 06:30 21 January 2010 | UPDATED: 07:36 02 July 2010

Melyvn Roffe, principal of Wymondham College

Melyvn Roffe, principal of Wymondham College

Adam Gretton

The head of Norfolk's only state boarding school has criticised Conservative proposals that could see schools setting up residential wings for children in care.

The head of Norfolk's only state boarding school has criticised Conservative proposals that could see schools setting up residential wings for children in care.

Shadow schools secretary Michael Gove has outlined plans to build living quarters for vulnerable youngsters, particularly at academies, if his party wins the general election.

But Melvyn Roffe, principal of Wymondham College, and headteachers of the 34 other state boarding schools in the country have urged the party to look at other ways of accommodating children in care into the education system.

Currently only 390 of the 50,000 school-aged children in care in England and Wales attend state boarding schools and Mr Gove has said he wants “many more” to follow a similar route by setting up residential units in schools.

But Mr Roffe said that forming boarding accommodation for vulnerable schoolchildren in academies “could be creating more problems than it solves.”

He added that it was more beneficial for students from all backgrounds to be educated in the same environment rather than clustering children in care together in their own residential wings.

“There is a degree of oversimplification to have 35,000 children in care in state boarding schools and via the academy route. Before we run off and create boarding houses in failing schools, we should put that capacity into successful schools and have a mixed economy.

“I am not saying that all children in vulnerable circumstances are going to run amok in a boarding house. We do not think the academy route will provide the solution,” he said.

Mr Roffe said Wymondham College, which has 1,200 students, some of whom come from care homes or have been supported by charitable foundations, would be prepared to take on extra capacity, but only if the extra spaces were offered to children from all backgrounds.

The average cost of looking after a child in a care home is about £126,000 a year, compared to about £12,000 at a boarding school.

The Conservatives add that children who move from care homes to boarding schools perform better academically than if they stay in homes or foster care.

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