Change to bill meets call for schools to engage with children’s agenda

Schools in England and Wales will be forced to promote children’s wellbeing under changes to legislation.

The change, in an amendment to the Education and Inspections Bill, comes in response to long-standing calls for schools to be required to engage with the Every Child Matters agenda.

It will oblige school governing bodies to help improve pupils’ physical, mental, emotional and social wellbeing, as well as their educational attainment.

Schools will also be required to play their part in protecting children from harm and neglect, and steer them towards positive activities and away from antisocial behaviour.

But although the move was welcomed by the Local Government Association, it criticised the exclusion of academies and city technology colleges from the duty. Two hundred academies are planned by 2010. They are also excluded from the duty to admit looked-after children. Explaining the government’s decision to back the amendment after earlier claims that it was  unnecessary, education minister Lord Adonis said there was “real value” in sending a message to teachers and other children’s professionals that raising educational standards and promoting pupil wellbeing were “mutually reinforcing”.

He told the House of Lords: “Stating unambiguously in primary legislation that school governing bodies have a clear duty to promote wellbeing will help to speed the delivery of the undoubted premium on school standards that arises from the improved wellbeing of pupils.”

Les Lawrence, chair of the LGA’s  children and young people’s board, said the amendment would go a long way towards schools having a statutory duty to commit to the entire Every Child Matters agenda.

Schools’ position in Every Child Matters
Under the Children Act 2004, schools, unlike councils, primary care trusts and other named partners, are not placed under a
duty to co-operate to improve children’s wellbeing.

Children’s services leaders lobbied for such a duty to ensure schools did not focus narrowly on educational standards. The
government argued it was only needed for strategic bodies.

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