The headline item on the Shields Gazette website resembles a direct quote from a Dicken’s novel:
“Send kids in care to boarding school, say Tories”
I sincerely thought the headline was a joke, but Councillor David Potts, leader of the South Tyneside Conservative Party, wants to send “willing and able” children living with foster parents in the Borough to boarding school during the academic year. With 141 children under the age of 18 currently being looked after by care services, Potts advocates a saving of between £8000 and £5000 if they were sent to boarding schools. These figures are based on Durham School’s fees.
The proposed scheme ignores the following facts:
1. Children in foster care are vulnerable and require specialist care. Boarding schools would not be able to provide this level of expertise.
2. Whilst they are in care, many children still have contact with their natural families. This contact is essential to their care strategy. To send them away from the family environment would be detrimental to their well being during what is a very emotional time.
3. The costs are disputed by the Council. They claim only 10 children would be eligible, and care would still have to be provided when the academic year had ended. This would amount to a minimum of £6000, negating any savings. (the Council also claim the cost of this out of school care could actually be £15000).
4. What will be the reception for these children, forced to study in a socially alien environment.
5. These children are already at school: why do they need to be sent outside of the Borough at extra cost? Is Councillor Potts saying schools within this Borough are not good enough, that they are second rate when compared to private education? As a Councillor, surely that is one of his Council functions: to ensure that schools within the Borough perform as well as possible. Mr Potts has three excellent schools within his ward. I wonder what they think of his dismissive views?
I suspect care and social service will be shocked to the core by this idea. It is dangerous, absurd and Victorian in ethos. It is clearly aimed at a larger Tory heartland which does not reside in this Borough. I suspect the Gazette letters bag will be inundated with letters of dismay and protest, and so it should. The last thing these vulnerable children need is to be sent away from the only security and family connections they have, all to save a maximum of £2000
What next from the Tory cohort – children up chimneys or back down the pit? Why pussy foot around, send the scroungers to Australia and Canada like we used to do. I’ve heard one way tickets are pretty cheap at the moment.