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Kent headteacher 'fears another Rotherham scandal'

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The headteacher of five academy schools in Kent has said they will stop taking children in care from outside the county to avoid a "Rotherham-style" abuse scandal.

Paul Luxmoore, executive headteacher of the Coastal Academies Trust in Thanet, says hundreds of youngsters are being sent to one of the most deprived areas in the country and are left "vulnerable and unsafe".

Having spoken out about the problem for more than a decade, Mr Luxmoore has now taken the decision to resist attempts to place relocated children from care backgrounds in London at his schools.

"London boroughs don't have nearly enough foster carers in their area, so children are sent to places like Thanet, which is a poor area with high unemployment and so has far more foster carers," he told Sky News.

"Thanet now has a large gang problem linked to London and part of that is London children who bring their gang links with them because these are kids who crave a sense of belonging and a sense of family."

Mr Luxmoore said he feared children could be left at risk of an exploitation scandal similar to those seen in other parts of the country.

"It happened in Rochdale, it happened in Rotherham, now it's happening in Thanet," he said.

"We should have learned the lessons as a country but we haven't and it's still going on all the time."

In December, a report by the Social Mobility Commission revealed that Thanet was the worst place in Kent for prospects for young people and ranked 275 out of 324 local authority areas nationwide.

The report said the coastal town was the 316th poorest in the UK for housing, wages and jobs, which Mr Luxmoore said was exacerbated by the number of children in care being relocated to the area.

Figures show the number of children placed in Thanet by authorities other than Kent County Council rose from 193 in December 2016 to 240 last November.

"We are not against helping looked-after children, we are trying to protect them by stopping them being sent to places that are unsafe," said Mr Luxmoore.

"We are trying to provoke the Government into taking some responsibility for what's going on."

North Thanet MP Sir Roger Gale has been a vocal critic of how many youngsters in care are relocated, claiming they are better off "in their own manor" unless there is a risk of mental or physical assault.

He claimed in December that social services often received "no notification" from the boroughs relocating the children.

An NSPCC spokesman told Sky News that moving children in foster care outside their local area was not ideal.

"The majority of children who need foster care have suffered from abuse and neglect in their birth families and they are taken into care to protect them from significant harm," the spokesman said.

"It is often challenging to find a local placement that will meet the child's needs but moving them outside their local area often makes it difficult to provide the best possible support to them.

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