Councils rebuffed over schools’ role

Local government leaders have expressed dismay at the
government’s resistance to renewed attempts to make schools more
accountable for the well-being of children.

Their criticism follows the withdrawal in the House of Lords
last week of an amendment to the Education Bill. It would have put
a duty on school inspectors to examine how well schools were
working with children’s services authorities, set up under the
Children Act 2004, to improve pupils’ well-being.

Similar moves to extend responsibility to schools under the
Children Act, backed by the Local Government Association, police,
children’s charities and school governors, were blocked as the bill
went through parliament last year after opposition from schools and
teaching unions.

Commenting on the latest set-back, chair of the LGA’s children
and young people board Alison King insisted that schools should be
forced to co-operate with other agencies. “There is a dislocation
between schools, which are becoming more autonomous, and local
authorities, which will be judged on their ability to provide for
children’s well-being.” This would be exacerbated by plans in the
Education Bill to ring-fence schools’ budgets, further distancing
them from local authorities, she said.

But education minister Lord Filkin told the House of Lords that
the amendment represented “a substantial loss of focus away from
the school and the work it does for its own pupils”.

But he added that the government was in “full agreement” with
the principle that schools must play an active role within the
wider community and could not work in isolation from one another or
from agencies providing services for children and young people and
their families.

Government plans to spell out the need for schools to co-operate
with partner agencies are expected to be included in forthcoming


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