Reasons to be cheerful

The government’s decision to create the post of minister
of state for children and make her responsible for most provision
for children outside the health service is very encouraging. If her
job title means anything Hodge and the experts she will be
gathering around her will develop a perspective in which children
are seen holistically, and their welfare really does come

The decision to locate her post within the Department for
Education and Skills is also promising for the millions of children
using its services, as it should mean a strong voice for a more
child-centred policy approach. Education is the key to many future
opportunities, but it must also be a satisfying and enjoyable
experience in the present. Children are the consumers of school
provision, and schools must be made more attractive, and relevant
to their needs and aspirations. This can only be done by listening
to children and young people, and taking their views and
experiences seriously.

There have been some welcome moves recently within the
Department for Education and Skills towards consulting young people
about the curriculum, but other policies, such as giving schools
powers to punish the parents of truants, are wide of the mark as
our investigation this month shows. Much deeper cultural changes
are needed if children are to feel they are treated with respect in
schools – and if their parents are to be supported to play a full
role as partners.

As David Blunkett reportedly pointed out to Tony Blair when he
was fighting off proposals for a ministry of justice, change
doesn’t happen through rearranging the deck chairs.
Hodge’s appointment is certainly a step in the right
direction. Time will tell whether it will lead to real gains for

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