Sad stories of wasted opportunities for children in need
Buttle UK is a charity which supports disadvantaged children. One of its more imaginative and bolder initiatives has been to fund places at boarding schools for children who are thought likely to benefit from the opportunities this would provide. The project has been sensitively designed so as not to create divisions between children and their own families and social milieu.
However, today Buttle UK reports:
Despite interest and support... we repeatedly struggled to receive referrals... it became apparent that considering boarding school as an option in a systematic way is not something local authorities, as a whole, are yet ready, willing or able to do. Therefore, in consultation with our partners, we decided to end the project.
Buttle UK's CEO, Gerri McAndrew, said:
There’s an ideology that people think that boarding isn’t right for these children. I think people don’t have the same aspirations for these children as they might for others... there’s a concern about what happens to children in the holidays when they’re not at school, there are concerns that the schools won’t cope with children with some of the difficult behaviours, all of that is based on an assumption. Not many social workers have actually visited a boarding school, so there’s a real lack of knowledge about boarding schools.
Maris Stratulis, England manager at the British Association of Social Workers, said:
Schools have a significant role to play in the wellbeing, educational attainment and safeguarding of children on a child protection plan but that does not necessarily have to involve taking a child out of the family environment.
Ms Stratulis is a highly experienced professional but it seems - sadly - that she and, seemingly, many colleagues, are missing the point. Consequently, children are missing a potentially life-changing opportunity. Perhaps only a small percentage of disadvantaged children would benefit from boarding school life but it is undeniable that many would. We regularly receive calls from parents, grandparents, carers, and pastors asking whether there is any way we can help take a child from a damaging or unsafe home life into a boarding school where he or she will get the chances and security all children deserve.
We ask them to look again at this, to examine their own practices and, perhaps, prejudices and ask themselves to think solely of the best interests of the children in their care.