Thinking outside the classroom

Schools have always had the potential to improve the way services
are delivered to children. At last, it seems that the government
has realised this.

All children are required by law to attend school. As a result
their well-being can be monitored over a long time. Schools by
their nature spring up in the same places as children, with their
size and infrastructure proportionate to the number of pupils they
cater for. But the wide range of facilities that schools have on
offer are often under-used, with most school buildings standing
empty after 3.30pm, at weekends and for about 70 weekdays a

So how should these valuable assets be used to best advantage? If
we imagine a re-engineering of the way services are delivered to
children, we can begin to see their potential. Schools could become
hubs for local children’s services. No longer operated exclusively
by head teachers, they could become children’s centres. A
children’s services manager could run them and co-ordinate under
one roof a range of departments including education, health, and
social work.

This new budget-holder would be accountable to the parents and
children in the area and could operate a social inclusion policy. A
child facing exclusion from school because of problems at home
could be supported from within the children’s services team. The
centre could have a medical practitioner based on site who could
offer advice and appropriate referrals. A social worker could link
home visits, social services records and behaviours observed in the
classroom and develop a comprehensive plan for early support. If
removal of a young person from home becomes necessary, the insight
offered by the children’s centre team could help secure a local
placement that allows the young person to maintain their peer group
and networks.

We all know that positive social outcomes for young people are not
one-dimensional. They succeed because of a blend of social, health
and educational support. The government needs to set up a process
that can improve the way that these different agencies work

A child sees a simple world – if they tell the teacher about their
problem, they hope that the teacher or other adults they know will
be able to help. It is the adult construct of departments that
introduces strangers into the equation.

Andrew Constable is managing director of SACCS, which
provides residential care and family placements for

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