X Factor Alexandra Burke launches runaway children project at her old Islington school

X-Factor star Alexandra Burke told how she helped troubled classmates as she launched a major project which supports children who run away from home.

Last Thursday the 23-year-old went back to her former school Elizabeth Garratt Anderson in Donegal Street, Islington, as the UK ambassador for charity Railway Children which supports the project.

Barnardo’s now has a �300,000 cash grant from Aviva to pay for three new staff members in Islington, Camden and Haringey. Charity workers will regularly visit children in the boroughs who have returned after disappearing to prevent them fleeing again.

More than 330 young people went missing in Islington in 2010 and the council says the three most common reasons why they left were bullying, sexual identity and pregnancy.

Alexandra said: “I had school friends who were thinking about running away. And I would say come stay with me because my mum would welcome them with open arms and they would talk through their troubles. Now from this day forward girls like this will get help.

“What happens to these young girls if they leave? That’s why this is close to my heart. I thought about leaving at 12 but wasn’t brave enough. However others will put themselves in danger.”

Andy McCullough, head of policy at Railway Children, said: “100,000 run away each year which is enough to fill Wembley Stadium. They end up on the streets and could be cold, abused and even dead. Our work is to make sure these children don’t face such horrible choices.”

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Jo Dibb, headteacher of Elizabath Garratt Anderson, said: “It is great to welcome back Alexandra and see her giving something back to the community.”

Islington Council staff will work closely Barnardo’s to identify at risk youngsters and stage awareness events.

Cllr Richard Watts, executive member for children and young people, said: “This is excellent news because it allows us to help to some of the most vulnerable children. Tackling the problems that lead to them running away is vital.”