Education secretary Charles Clarke could do with a few lessons from
Channel 4’s Supernanny. While the programme’s Jo Frost
tames tyrannical toddlers by laying down consistent house rules,
Clarke is turning into the king of mixed messages.
On the one hand, the Children Bill preaches better co-operation
between authorities with responsibility for children, whether in
education, social care or child care. The government is also
expanding state-funded nursery places for two year olds, and
expects council-led children’s trusts to offer 12 and a half hours’
free placements to three and four year olds – “educare” is the new
However, Clarke’s five-year education plan encourages schools to
apply for foundation status and the greater financial independence
and freedom from local authority control that go with it. But
school independence leads to ring-fenced education budgets,
ultimately restricting council flexibility in spending on all care
services. And while there may be less emphasis on league tables,
schools are still driven by educational targets which give no
credit to integrating with other support services.
Ultimately, the aims of education and social care are linked. In
many cases schools cannot hope to help underperforming pupils
unless those same children get proper housing and family support.
Introducing foundation schools risks losing this rule in a
confusion of other priorities.