One of the government's schools ministers has called for state boarding schools to be opened up to more pupils, which could create new teacher jobs at these institutions.
Speaking at a State Boarding Schools' Association (SBSA) symposium in London, Lord Nash noted the problems facing some children living in inner cities and argued boarding schools could offer them a much-needed stable environment and range of academic opportunities.
He cited the high recent performance in GCSEs of boarders sponsored by charity Buttle UK compared to other children from disadvantaged backgrounds as evidence of this, but claimed boarding schools were still too often barred to those pupils who might benefit most from them.
Yet Lord Nash was heartened by initiatives like the Assisted Boarding Network and The Springboard Bursary that are intended to increase boarding opportunities for pupils.
Moreover, he said new academies offering boarding provision had managed to reach out to pupils who might not have traditionally boarded, while also celebrating engagement between state and independent schools with a view to expanding boarding opportunities.
Eton College, for example, is to open a state boarding school, Holyport College, which will educate 500 pupils, from September 2014 as part of the free schools programme.
Lord Nash furthermore welcomed growing local authority interest in boarding and expressed the hope that councils and the boarding sector could work together to find suitable placements for pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds.
He also said the Department for Education was producing a guidance pack for schools interested in expanding or creating boarding provision, adding that new and existing boarding schools could benefit from possessing academy or free school status.
The schools minister told delegates: "The unique education you offer is too valuable to remain unsung and out of reach.
"Especially for disadvantaged children who can be as good for your schools as you are for them."
The possibility of new teaching vacancies being created at boarding schools was highlighted by recent SBSA figures showing they had received 20 applications to provide boarding opportunities over the first four months of 2013 alone.
Posted by Harriet McGowan