Lansley slams Labour’s NHS ‘production line’ as figures show emergency readmissions have surged over past decade
Tony Blair thought that bureaucratic “targets” could replace incentives. The result was disastrous everywhere it was tried
Hundreds of thousands of patients every year are readmitted to hospital after being sent home too soon, figures suggest. Alarming figures show that over a decade the number of NHS patients who were readmitted to hospital in an emergency within a month of being discharged soared – rising by more than 75 per cent in the past decade.
Health Secretary Andrew Lansley last night accused hospitals of treating patients ‘like parts on a production line’ as they tried to hit Labour’s waiting list targets. Some 620,054 patients had to be readmitted within a month in 2009/10 compared with 348,996 a decade earlier – an increase of 78 per cent.
Mr Lansley said: ‘Patients have a right to expect that when they go in for treatment that they are looked after properly and that the treatment they are given helps them to recover. ‘Having to be readmitted and treated all over again is hugely distressing.
‘These figures show how Labour’s obsession with waiting time targets meant that patients were treated like parts on a production line to be hurried through the system rather than like people who need to be properly cared for.’
The Department of Health has released detailed information on the number of emergency readmissions in every area across Britain. The figures showed more than 660,000 people were readmitted to hospital last year within 28 days of leaving.
And some NHS trusts have seen their emergency readmission rate rise more than three-fold over the past decade – compared with other hospitals who have seen only a slight increase.
Mr Lansley criticised the previous administration for their emphasis on targets and added: ‘Instead of focusing on the results which actually matter for patients, they focused on narrow processes to the detriment of patient care. ‘That is why we have taken action to address these increases in emergency readmissions.
‘One of the new goals we are setting the NHS is reducing emergency readmissions. ‘In order to help achieve this we have created a re-ablement fund of £300 million and we have taken action to stop hospitals being paid when they readmit a patient after discharging them too early. ‘
The figures showed 620,054 patients had to be readmitted in 2009-10 – compared to just 348,996 ten years before, which is a 78 percent increase.
In the past five years, there has been a 31 per cent rise and a five per cent increase on the previous 12 months.
The data also illustrates the widespread regional variations. The rate of readmission in the Kensington & Chelsea PCT area has risen by 287 percent over the past decade to 1,582 people. But, the North Lincolnshire PCT has only experienced a 3.37 percent rise over the same period.
The official figures were released as a leading NHS body claimed one in four patients being treated in hospital would be better off being treated at home under new community-based services.
The head of the NHS Confederation said the Health Service must convince the public to let go of the ‘hospital-or-bust’ version of medical care, a conclusion which would be likely to result in ward closures.
Mike Farrar, who runs the independent organisation representing NHS providers, said 2012 would be a key year for the NHS as it undertakes a drive for £20billion in efficiency savings by 2015.
Number of elderly taken to A&E soars to 1.2m a year, figures reveal
The number of elderly people being admitted to accident and emergency departments has soared to more than 1.2million a year, figures have revealed. The numbers of over-80s taken to A&E has risen 37 per cent in two years, according to the Department of Health figures – from 913,785 in 2007/08 to more than 1,247,672 million in 2009/10.
Last night campaigners blamed a crisis in out-of-hours care provision [The Labor government allowed local doctors not to provide any] and Britain’s increasing ageing population.
Revealed in a Parliamentary answer, the figures will add to the pressure on casualty departments amid fears that many are already struggling to cope with too few staff and not enough beds.
Tory MP Chris Skidmore, a member of the Commons Health Select Committee, warned last night that the NHS was in danger of ‘going bust’ unless an ‘urgent solution to the crisis of social care’ is found. He said: ‘These figures show the serious impact that our ageing population is having upon the NHS. ‘We must get to grips with how we ensure that the elderly are best cared for- more than ever, we need to find an urgent solution to the crisis of social care we are likely to face. Otherwise the NHS will likely go bust under the demands placed upon it.’
David Cameron and Health Secretary Andrew Lansley promised the NHS will not be affected by cuts to public spending.
But medical groups and charities warn health spending is failing to keep pace with the rising cost of the ageing population.
A poll of GPs and hospital doctors earlier this week found that four out of five doctors said they had seen patient care suffer as a result of health service cuts during 2011.
Ruthe Isden, of Age UK, said: ‘There is a general sense that there is a problem with inadequate and patchy out of hours provision. ‘People can find themselves unable to access the help they need from GPs or community services at night or the weekend, as a result they may turn to A&E due to a lack of an alternative. ‘Lack of access to end-of-life care services at home and in the community may also be a problem.’
She added that the rise in admissions was also due to poor management of chronic and long term conditions.
Katherine Murphy, of the Patients Association, said more elderly people were being forced to fend for themselves, leaving them more vulnerable to injury.
Health Minister Paul Burstow blamed the increase on Labour’s botched handling of GP contracts which allowed them to opt out of responsibility for patients outside office hours and at weekends.
He said: ‘Labour’s disastrous decision to stop GPs being responsible for out of hours care meant that hospitals saw huge increases in the number of vulnerable patients having to go to hospital.
‘These figures expose the extent of Labour’s failure. Under the Coalition’s plans, GPs will take responsibility for out of hours care and we are establishing a new 111 urgent care system that will mean everyone will get the care they need first time round.’
Brussels rules let 11,000 migrants a year slip into the UK by the back door
Brussels rules are letting thousands of migrants into Britain ‘by the back door’. Nearly 11,000 moved here this year on the basis of having been given citizenship in another EU country.
The total, revealed in figures from the Office for National Statistics, is up more than a third on the 8,000 cases recorded in 2006. Many of the migrants would normally have been barred from taking up residence in Britain.
But under EU rules they are automatically entitled to come here once they have EU citizenship and start working – or claiming benefits. The data, compiled from passenger surveys, shows that 47,000 non-EU immigrants have found their way to the UK using this method over the past five years.
Priti Patel, the Tory MP who uncovered the information, said the loophole completely undermined Government efforts to curb the surge in immigration that took place under Labour. She urged ministers to raise the issue in Brussels and take action to wrest back control of Britain’s borders.
Miss Patel took up the issue herself after a BBC documentary in October highlighted the case of an Ecuadorean family who moved to London after gaining citizenship in Spain. The family of six were receiving £2,300 a month in housing benefit to rent a flat in Islington, as well as tax credits and child benefit.
Miss Patel said she was ‘astonished’ by the number of people entering the UK by this route. She added: ‘The Government has made a commitment to cut immigration from outside the EU into Britain. But those efforts are being completely undermined by this astonishing loophole which has already allowed 10,000 non-Europeans to sneak in through the backdoor each year.
‘The British public are living with the consequences of a decade of Labour’s open door policy on immigration which is why this Government must take on these EU laws that let non-Europeans come into Britain and access jobs and benefits. ‘It is in the British interest to reject these laws and on this issue, just say no to Europe.
‘This also raises the question of why these people are choosing to come here. They have entered the EU elsewhere and chosen to become citizens of other EU countries, yet they are still coming here. ‘Is it down to a benefits system which encourages people to come here and live off the state?’
The revelation raises fresh questions about the Coalition’s pledge to cut net immigration to under 100,000 a year. Last month official figures revealed that the figure had soared to a record 252,000 in 2010.
EU countries all have different requirements for migrants wanting to become a citizen, and there are fears that some could be a soft touch for those whose ultimate aim is to come to the UK.
EU rules mean that asylum seekers are meant to be dealt with in the country of their arrival. But in cases where a migrant or asylum seeker has been granted citizenship they are free to travel anywhere in the EU.
Critics claim that Britain’s generous benefits system acts as a magnet for migrants.
Ministers have introduced a range of measures designed to curb immigration, including a cap on the number of non-EU economic migrants coming here and a crackdown on bogus colleges providing a route into Britain for migrants posing as students.
But officials admit there is little they can do to curb immigration from the EU, because free movement of labour is a fundamental principle of the single market.
A landmark ruling by the European Court of Justice last week stripped Britain of its power to return asylum seekers to Greece. Under EU rules, British officials can return asylum seekers to the first European country they set foot in. But the ECJ last week said no one should be returned to a country if it did not uphold their ‘fundamental rights’. This would rule out Greece because its asylum system is in such a mess. Around 90 per cent of illegal migrants enter Europe through the country.
One in three on jobless benefits has got a criminal record: £2bn cost of handouts to underclass is revealed for the first time
One in three people claiming unemployment benefit is a convicted criminal, figures show. Taxpayers are funding around £2billion a year in out-of-work payments to nearly 1.3million people with criminal records, including £1.2billion to those on Jobseeker’s Allowance. The rest of the money is paid to offenders who claim income support as lone parents or receive Incapacity Benefit and its replacement, Employment Support Allowance.
The figures lay bare the degree to which an ‘underclass’ that drifts in and out of criminal activity is using state handouts to bolster its income, while often continuing a life of crime.
It is the first time a Government has ever bothered to work out how many benefit claimants have a conviction. The Department for Work and Pensions compared welfare rolls with information on convictions held by the Ministry of Justice and payments information from HM Revenue & Customs.
Officials found that of the 1.2million total claims for Jobseeker’s Allowance open on December 1, 2010 in England and Wales, 33 per cent were made by offenders.
In total 26 per cent of the 4.9million people claiming some sort of out-of-work benefit were offenders who had received at least one caution or conviction between 2000 and 2010. Of those, 5 per cent of the total claims were made by offenders who had been released from prison over the past ten years.
That means 1.3million offenders were claiming out-of-work benefits, including 245,000 who had served a custodial sentence.
Experts and MPs expressed amazement that the figures were so high and called on the Government to tackle the criminal underclass and help those who genuinely want to turn away from crime into the workplace.
Tory MP Philip Davies questioned whether the benefit payments are legitimate. ‘Given that so many of these people are criminals, it makes you wonder how many are actually seeking work and available to work,’ he said.
‘It appears that the taxpayer is paying twice. We are being attacked on the one hand as victims of crime and on the other we seem to be paying for them to go out and commit more crimes.’
Examples include Harry Singer, an unemployed man who claimed Jobseeker’s Allowance while he conned £90,000 out of an NHS trust.
Singer, 54, claimed he helped 2,000 smokers kick the habit in six months in his role as a ‘stop smoking adviser’ in West London. He was paid £45 by Kensington and Chelsea Primary Care Trust each time he submitted a form signed by a supposed smoker saying they had received six sessions of counselling, then quit smoking.
But a court heard he had tricked people into signing up. Many had not given up smoking, had quit years ago or had never smoked at all. Singer, of Earl’s Court, south-west London, was jailed for 18 months in 2008.
In a further sign of the way a life on benefits can go hand in hand with a life of crime, the researchers found that 51 per cent of offenders sentenced or cautioned in England and Wales in the year ending November 2010 had claimed one of the main out-of-work benefits at some point in the month before they were sentenced.
One in four offenders claimed Jobseeker’s Allowance at some point in the month before sentence.
Two years after being released from prison in 2008, 47 per cent of offenders were on out-of-work benefits and three out of four offenders made a new claim to an out-of-work benefit at some point between 2008 and 2010.
On average, offenders leaving prison in 2008 spent 12 of the next 24 months on out-of-work handouts – meaning the taxpayer was funding them half the time.
Gavin Poole, executive director of the Centre for Social Justice think tank, said there was a need for a complete overhaul of the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act to end the spiral of criminality and benefits claims. He said: ‘There is an element in our society, who are engaged in criminal activity, who simply don’t want to work. There are others who are denied access to work because of something they have done in their past.
‘It goes to show that this country is picking up the cost of crime in several ways. There are the benefits bills and the cost of getting people back to work.’
Employment minister Chris Grayling said that he will bring forward plans next month to target offenders for special treatment. He said the figures ‘underline why we have said that Britain needs a rehabilitation revolution, and particularly to help former offenders into sustained employment. ‘We are committed to delivering much better back-to-work support for ex-offenders, and will be giving more details of our plans shortly.’
Almost 3,000 crime suspects – including alleged sex offenders, robbers, burglars and drug dealers – escaped justice last year because of blunders by officials. Figures show that 2,883 cases brought by the Crown Prosecution Service were abandoned either because the CPS did not get the case ready in time, files had not been received from police, or police officers due to give evidence did not turn up at court.
The CPS said discontinued cases represented less than 0.3 per cent of the one million cases it handles every year.
Single-parent Britain: One in five children lives with just mum or dad – more than in most of Europe
A higher proportion of children are being brought up in one-parent families in Britain than in any other major European country. One in five live with a single mother of father – a far higher ratio than in France, Germany or Scandinavian countries.
And while the number of married families in the UK is among the lowest in Europe, stable cohabiting relationships are also less common here than in other countries.
The figures, produced by the EU’s statistical arm, come at a time of increased efforts to downplay the importance of marriage by politicians and campaigners who oppose tax breaks for married couples.
Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg has declared that ‘strong relationships between parents are important’ but the state should not use the tax system to favour a particular family set-up.
The figures from Luxembourg-based Eurostat suggest that strong relationships outside marriage are uncommon in Britain but that the decline of marriage has meant life with a single parent for millions of youngsters. These children are more likely than others to suffer poor health, do badly a school, and go on to less successful adult lives.
According to the breakdown, 20.8 per cent of children in the UK were living in single parent families in 2008.
In just three countries were children more likely to live with one parent: Estonia and Latvia in Eastern Europe, and Ireland, where the number was 23.2 per cent. It is believed the surge in Ireland is a result of generous benefits to single parent families and high immigration.
The proportion of children in single-parent families in the UK is roughly 50 per cent higher than in France and 35 per cent higher than in Germany.
The breakdown also makes it possible to check the share of children of single-parent families against those who live with married or cohabiting parents.
Around two thirds in this country are living with married parents, the analysis shows.
Apart from the small Eastern states of Estonia and Latvia, only France and Sweden have a smaller percentage of children in married families. But in both, children are much more likely to have cohabiting parents in a stable relationship.
Critics of cohabitation maintain that most such relationships are short-lived and many end by leaving behind single-parent families.
Those who want the Government to support married couples said yesterday that the figures proved the impact of tax breaks and the benefit system.
Researcher and author Patricia Morgan said: ‘You can look at these figures and see immediately which countries help couples through tax and benefits.
‘In France, people get help if they draw up legal family contracts. In Germany, Holland and Italy, married people get tax relief and tax relief for children. Even in Sweden, where they do nothing for married couples, they do not help single parents, and they expect them to work. ‘By contrast, our system encourages transient shack-ups. Even cohabiting couples get no help at all.’
Jill Kirby, an author on family development, warned: ‘Unless our Government acts to implement pro-marriage policies, the gap with the rest of Europe will continue to widen.’
Despite David Cameron’s pledge to introduce tax breaks for married couples, several Whitehall organisations are supporting cohabitation.
The Office for National Statistics is downgrading its publication of figures on marriage to give equal prominence to cohabiting families. And the Law Commission, the Government’s law reform adviser, is calling for legislation to help cohabitees settle inheritances and take out insurance policies.
The rise of pernicious laws that criminalise law-abiding Britons
By Simon Heffer
Yesterday, more than 300 hunts met all over the country, six years after foxhunting was supposedly banned by Parliament.
Two Government ministers, including Jim Paice, the man now responsible for administering the ban, marked the occasion by saying the law is unworkable.
Hunts still chase foxes. When they catch them, the quarry is killed either by a bird of prey or by a huntsman with a firearm, who shoots it. Both means are entirely legal. If the intention of the Act was to prevent these vermin from being killed, it has failed.
Yet it remains on the statute book, and is one of several measures that criminalise people who are no threat to society. It reflects one of the most poisonous attitudes of the modern state, that it is considerably easier to prosecute and punish harmless people than it is to pursue serious criminals.
It has, for example, also been reported this week that last year more than 400 families are thought to have misrepresented or lied about their addresses in order to get their children into a decent, or half-decent, state school.
This is technically a criminal offence, and people have been prosecuted for it: people who did not seek personal gain, but simply sought to do the best for their children in a society where the state disgracefully does not provide good schools in many parts of the country.
It is quite right for the state to prosecute motorists who drive at 40mph in 30mph limits on housing estates where children might be playing, and near schools, but it even more zealously prosecutes those who drive past speed cameras in 70mph zones in open country at 80mph and are doing no harm at all.
This is a two-pronged problem. It is partly the fault of the civil servants who draw up laws, and who (unlike in previous generations) are insufficiently well-educated, and apolitical, to ensure their measures have no unintended consequences.
But it is also the fault of the police who implement the law without discretion or, often, much good sense, when they would be better employed directing their firepower at those who justly deserve it, and against whom society cries out to be protected.
A fine example of this was in Kent a few years ago, where two young policemen pulled over an 82-year-old man for driving slowly in the small hours of Christmas morning.
They thought he was driving slowly because he had been drinking. He was, in fact, returning from Midnight Mass, and driving slowly because he was in a narrow residential road with cars parked on both sides. And he was 82. When he remonstrated with the policemen who pulled him over, and pushed one of them in his exasperation, they arrested him for assault.
Their Chief Constable, who might have hoped his officers were out preventing serious crimes, of course supported them to the hilt. That, I fear, is the sort of country we live in.
The hunting ban is perhaps the most fatuous, and most glaring, example of the passing of a law that is not only largely unenforceable, but also intensely partisan and which criminalises perfectly harmless people. There are many problems with this law, so I must be content with listing just the most obvious.
First, there was the misunderstanding, by largely urban campaigners and the gormless MPs whom they influenced, about what the fox is really like. He is vermin. He is a vicious predator.
He does not just eat poultry and wildfowl and attack domestic pets such as rabbits and cats. He has even been known to go into houses and observe babies’ cots, with a view to working out where his next meal is coming from.
Much of the rural economy is damaged by the existence of the fox, which is why farmers are so glad to see him controlled. It is why the hunt was always welcomed — as it still is — over many estates, because it drove foxes elsewhere and killed many of them.
It is also why foxes are now shot and poisoned in large numbers, because the population is not controlled as it once was by hunting.
One gamekeeper I know told me that far more foxes were being killed on his estate now than before the law was passed, because he no longer left them for the hunt — and foxes, unchecked, do severe commercial damage to estates that run shooting syndicates, by eating pheasant and partridge eggs and chicks.
Second, much of the drive against hunting was rooted in the notion that it was an exclusive pursuit of the wealthy upper classes. It amused Labour activists to have a parliament controlled by their party pass a law to make the lives of their class enemy a misery.
In fact, hardly any hunts these days are the province of what the Left would caricature as braying toffs. Most people who hunt are middle-class. Most hunt followers are working-class, and it is hunt servants who have often been subject to police investigations when bodies such as the RSPCA have managed to manufacture a case against a hunt.
But prejudice helped this naked piece of class legislation reach the statute book. Under the Act — which came into force in 2005, ate up more than 700 hours of Parliamentary time and was seen as a weak sop by Tony Blair to keep his urban backbenchers on side to do his bidding over the Iraq War — it is now illegal to hunt a fox ‘intentionally’.
As things stand, all hunts now follow the trail of a man-made scent put on a rag and laid down by a rider who leaves the meet 20 minutes before the hounds. But if the hounds should meet a fox and eventually corner it, then it may be killed legally by a bird of prey or a huntsman with a firearm.
Sometimes the dogs do accidentally kill a fox that would be shot anyway: the RSPCA, which in recent years has become a Leftist front organisation, then urges prosecution of the huntsman or Master of Foxhounds responsible, purely to prove its utterly pointless point.
This has brought about the new battle, involving anti-hunting groups undertaking surveillance to make sure the hunts are acting within the law. It has also brought about the devouring of hundreds of hours of already stretched rural police time, and hundreds of thousands of pounds of public money to bring cases to court, very few of which have been successful.
According to figures released by the Ministry of Justice, for all Hunting Act prosecutions since the 2005 ban, of 181 convictions only six relate directly to hunting with hounds.
How much longer can this sort of thing go on? The Government has said it will make time for the hunting ban to be debated in Parliament, and the sooner it does, the better. The present system is a nonsense, a waste of police time, and it threatens the liberty and livelihoods of tens of thousands of rural dwellers, as well as helping the fox head for extinction in the countryside as it becomes ever more ruthlessly controlled.
We have lived through an era when the urge to criminalise and restrict has constituted a serious and unwarranted assault on our civil liberties. A supposedly liberal Government should not tolerate laws that make criminals of the law-abiding — and the hunting ban should be the first to go.
Greener energy will cost £4,600 each a year in Britain
The Coalition’s plans to convert Britain to green energy would cost the country the equivalent of £4,600 per person a year, according to official forecasts. Reducing dependence on fossil fuels and moving to renewable and nuclear energy would cost an additional £60billion every year until 2050, the officials said.
But Professor David MacKay, a government adviser on climate change, said that doing nothing to reduce carbon emissions would prove even more expensive because of rising energy prices.
Although the cost of converting to green energy will initially be paid by energy companies and the Government, they are likely to pass it on to taxpayers through higher energy bills and taxes.
The bulk of the cost will lie in replacing the ageing fossil fuel and nuclear power stations and meeting the Government’s commitment to reduce carbon dioxide emissions to hit European Union targets.
Meeting the country’s current energy needs costs an estimated £220billion, equivalent to £3,700 per person every year.
The cheapest option for switching to green energy would increase the estimated cost of energy to £4,598 per person per year.
Under this plan, just over 40 per cent of energy would come from wind, solar and renewable power, a third would come from nuclear plants and a quarter from gas stations.
The estimates suggest that failing to replace fossil fuel plants with greener energy would be even more costly.
Continuing to rely on coal and gas would cost about £4,682 a year per person, according to the forecasts.
The most expensive scenario, working out at £5,181 per person a year, would rely on a far higher use of nuclear power than any of the other options.
The “cost of energy calculator” has been designed by Prof MacKay for the Department of Energy and Climate Change. The Government estimates that household bills will probably increase by around £200 a year over the next decade, with about half of this rise caused by Britain’s climate change policies.
Household energy bills are already at record levels, with the average domestic fuel cost estimated to be about £1,175 for 2011, compared with £1,075 for the same level of energy consumption last year.
Energy companies were criticised for raising their prices this summer. The industry has claimed that gas prices have risen because production has fallen from the Middle East during the Arab Spring, and extra supplies have gone to Japan following the Fukushima nuclear plant disaster in Japan last March.
Prof MacKay said: “I was irritated by all the twaddle being talked about energy and the misleading comparisons made. I just wanted the numbers without the hype. I am just the numbers guy, trying to be helpful.”
All-girl classes at university ‘lead to better grades’ with some saying they are more comfortable without boys in the classroom
Girls perform better at university when taught in single-sex classes, research suggests. Academics who split their students into three groups – men-only, women-only and mixed – found that the women-only class received considerably higher marks at the end of the year.
The girls in the single-sex group said they felt more comfortable and confident in classes without boys.
The pilot project was designed to build upon the findings of earlier experiments with school-age pupils that showed girls were more willing to take risks and be competitive after being taught in single-sex groups.
For the latest study, University of Essex researchers Dr Patrick Nolen and Professor Alison Booth divided 800 first-year undergraduates into three groups for introductory courses in economics.
At the end of the year, the average member of the girls-only group did 7.5 per cent better on her exams than those in the other groups.
Attendance was a major factor, as girls were much more likely to turn up for classes if they were placed in single-sex classes. On average, girls in single-sex groups attended 71 per cent of the classes, while those being taught alongside boys attended just 63 per cent.
Although single-sex classes led to better exam scores among women, there were no significant effects on their coursework marks.
Study participant Corina Musat, 20, said: ‘I think the atmosphere was more friendly and we bonded because we were all girls.’
Emilia Matei, also 20, agreed. ‘I think it was the best class I had last year. I don’t know whether it was because it was a single-sex class or whether it was the teaching,’ she said.
‘In the all-girls’ class, you didn’t have to have that much courage to go to the blackboard and answer the question.’
The academics who carried out the study warned that girls who show less confidence in the classroom may be less competitive in the job market.
Dr Nolen, of the university’s department of economics, said: ‘I would like to see policy makers think about this. We should be investigating it and intervening pre-market in the environment in which students learn.’ His summary of the project in the New Economic Journal concluded: ‘This finding is relevant to the policy debate on whether or not single-sex classes within co-ed schools could be a useful way forward.’
The study that inspired the new research involved 260 teenagers from two girls’ schools, two boys’ schools and four co-educational schools in Suffolk and Essex.
The work showed that girls who went to single-sex schools were more competitive, even when they were in a mixed- sex environment.
Boarding schools ‘increasingly popular’ among British sixth-formers
Rising numbers of sixth-formers are being enrolled at boarding schools as parents seek to ”acclimatise” children into being away from home before university. Figures show that the number of 16 to 18-year-olds boarding at independent and state schools in Britain has soared by a fifth in the last decade.
More schools are building additional boarding facilities and allowing children to take advantage of more flexible hotel-style arrangements to cater for rising demand.
School leaders claim that many pupils are choosing to board for the first time in the sixth-form as preparation for university – softening the blow of being away from home at 18. The Boarding Schools Association said that the experience acted as an effective “bridge” between school and higher education.
It was also suggested that families were opting for boarding because professional parents are being forced to work into the evening and weekends to make ends meet in the downturn.
Some parents are being attracted by the rise in “flexi-boarding” – more casual arrangements that allow children to stay for few nights a week without making a full-time commitment.
Richard Harman, chairman of the BSA and headmaster of fee-paying Uppingham School in Rutland, said: “It prepares youngsters for living away from home but in a structured way with an appropriate level of pastoral support and increasingly parents and the pupils themselves are seeing the benefit of that.
“At university, suddenly you are responsible for your own decisions and it can be a big jump for many people. You do get quite a high drop out rate for that reason; it is very easy for youngsters in the first year of university to get lost in the system and homesick. Boarding schools act as an effective bridge to university.”
According to figures, the number of sixth-form pupils in state boarding schools has increased from 1,102 to 1,790 over the last decade. Over the same period, teenagers admitted to the fee-paying sector have increased from 24,929 to 29,322. It represents an overall increase of 19.5 per cent to more than 31,100 in the last academic year.
The comments come despite a rise in boarding school fees in recent years, with the most elite institutions now charging as much as £30,000 for sixth-formers.
But Mr Harman said many families saw it as a worthwhile investment – making sure children maximised their A-level results and were well prepared for university.
John Newton, the headmaster of Taunton School in Somerset, said sixth-form boarding was also a “sound lifestyle choice for parents as well as pupils”.
“After years of ending work early to run children to sports clubs, ballet classes and orchestra practices, hard working parents realise that boarding is the most efficient way to educate children as roundly as possible, while liberating them to lead proper professional lives,” he said. “These days that involves flexible working, late hours and weekends.”
Louis Eastwood, 16, has just started at Wymondham College, a state boarding school in Norfolk, after previously being enrolled at a day school. “It is a really big jump to living at home with your parents to going to university,” he said. “I think boarding school is something in the middle. You have still got to do your own washing and have your independence but have the support of the school environment.
“Obviously I miss my parents and the family home but at the same time there’s more opportunities to socialise and work and there’s less temptation to just say I will do all my work on a Sunday night.”
Cut-price test that ‘can dramatically boost IVF chances’ will be available in 18 months
A cut-price test that could dramatically increase the chances of having a healthy baby through IVF could be available within 18 months.
Oxford University researchers say their test could ‘revolutionise’ the treatment as it is half the price of existing tests and may be just as effective.
It may be cheap enough for use by the Health Service. And, unlike existing tests, it does not involve the potentially risky step of taking a sample of cells from the egg or fledgling embryo, making it safer and more ethically acceptable.
Instead, it works by analysing a ‘cloud’ of cells that nurture and feed the egg. These are normally thrown away in IVF treatment but fertility doctors Dagan Wells and Elpida Fragouli believe they hold important clues to the health of the egg.
Keeping and analysing these cells could help clinics select the best eggs for fertility treatment. It should also spare would-be parents the emotional and financial heartache of going through repeated unsuccessful IVF treatments.
Analysing these ‘cloud’, or cumulous, cells is also likely to be much cheaper at £1,000 or less compared with the £2,000 cost of other techniques, bringing the technology within range of many more couples.
Despite IVF’s reputation as an insurance policy, the treatment works in less than a quarter of cases, and many of the failures are because of problems with the eggs’ chromosomes.
There are already several ways of checking the chromosomes, but they require a small sample from the egg or embryo and so are not completely without risk to the unborn child.
Oxford University researchers say their test could reolutionise the treatment as it is half the price of existing tests and could be just as effective
Oxford University researchers say their test could reolutionise the treatment as it is half the price of existing tests and could be just as effective
The cumulous cells, however, can be studied without harming the egg. These cells grow and mature with the egg and so any problems that damage the egg, such as a poor blood supply, should also show up in the cells.
The doctors have carried out a small-scale study that has shown that certain genes being over or under-active in the cumulous cells is a sign of abnormal eggs.
Calculations suggest that using the technique to pick out the healthiest eggs would boost a woman’s odds of having a baby. Existing tests can double or triple the odds of IVF success, and it is hoped the new test will be just as good.
Dr Wells said: ‘The number of patients we looked at is very small. This is very much a work in progress, but there is good reason for optimism at this point.’
A larger-scale study is planned, and if that goes well the technique could be trialled on women for the first time in the summer of 2012. If it proves to be safe and effective, it could be in widespread use early in 2013.