When people hear that a charity, like Buttle UK, who supports children in poverty and crisis works with boarding schools, it can often be quite a surprise. However, Buttle UK has been working to fund vulnerable children to attend boarding schools for most of its 70-year history. The reason we do this is because of children like Hannah (name changed to protect anonymity).
Hannah, aged 11, lives alone with her Step-grandmother under a Special Guardianship Order. She has no other family able to support her. Hannah’s mother is a drug user who lives in a residential mental health care unit. Her maternal grandfather lived with the family but has recently moved away as he too was struggling with depression and alcohol misuse. Finances are extremely tight and Hannah’s step-grandmother’s health is deteriorating; she is likely to need a wheelchair within the next few years, making care of Hannah an even greater challenge.
A child in circumstances such as Hannah, may be getting help from her school or social services, however, this will not dramatically change things in the home. In the long run, the situation would continue to impact her wellbeing and her education, and there is likely to be an even greater need for social care intervention, including the possibility of foster care.
Our Support for Boarding grants can provide an alternative means of supporting children in these circumstances. The boarding environment provides not just the essentials like room and board, but care within the boarding house, structured time for homework, easy access to extracurricular activities and social time, and even regular counselling and additional support as needed.
Boarding can be a comprehensive support package that allows the child to access the education, activities and pastoral support needed to help them thrive, which can often be cheaper than intensive social care interventions. It can also offer the family respite to cope with the difficult circumstances they are experiencing, many of which can have an enduring impact. A boarding school placement can contribute to families ultimately remaining together, even through very difficult circumstances.
Children like Hannah are referred to us through our existing network of frontline organisations, such as schools and local authorities across the UK, who can identify families and children aged 11-15 who may benefit from our Support for Boarding Grants. We also work closely with state boarding and sometimes independent schools to access bursary places for these young people who would benefit from the pastoral and educational provision boarding schools can offer.
Hannah is starting boarding school in Year 8, and providing nothing changes in her family’s circumstances, Buttle UK will support her in boarding until the end of year 11. When we take a child into this programme, we engage their family, their support worker, and a partnering boarding school to create a suitable support package for the child. Boarding places are usually entirely co-funded by Buttle UK, the partner school and occasionally other third-party funders such as local authorities or other charitable trusts. Buttle UK also provides a discretionary fund to help families with the additional costs associated with attending boarding School. This fund contributes to items such as school uniforms, weekend activities, and extra-curricular activities.
When we can build that great package of support with a school it can be life-changing. Academically, the children we support achieve higher in their GCSE’s than the national average, but even more importantly from our perspective, they report significant improvements in their emotional and social well-being. Here is what a few of our boarding students had to say when we asked them what difference being in boarding made to their lives.
I don’t want to think how my life would be if I hadn’t attended boarding school because it would be probably awful and I’m so grateful to be here
I don’t have arguments with Mum and she doesn’t have to moan at me for not doing things. When I go home at weekends we only do fun stuff so I definitely think it’s made our relationship better.
I would be bored and very disruptive in classes…I don’t think I would be able to concentrate at home and I don’t think I could do my GCSES.
I feel like my life may not have been as straightforward and I may have strayed away from education to do more counterproductive things
We welcomed 10 new children to the support for Boarding Programme this year, and we hope that at the end of their journey, they too will feel that boarding school gave them the space for change that they needed in their lives.
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