Schools will be forced to engage with the Every Child Matters agenda under government proposals to give them a duty to co-operate with other agencies.
John Chowcat, general secretary of education and children’s services union Aspect, said last week’s announcement of proposals to strengthen the partnership structures created by the Children Act 2004 would bring schools into the children’s trust process (see box below).
“Some secondary schools haven’t taken on board the logic of more integration with other children’s services, although some secondary schools are running brilliant extended services,” he said.
The proposal to bring schools under the Children Act’s duty to co-operate – effectively making them partners in children’s trusts arrangements – marks a U-turn by the government.
During the passage of the act, the government said the duty should be reserved for strategic bodies like councils and primary care trusts rather than frontline delivery bodies.
But children’s secretary Ed Balls said last week the new move would enable head teachers to secure better support for vulnerable and disadvantaged pupils from partner agencies and influence the planning of children’s services.
The proposal – now out for consultation – is likely to be included in a bill to strengthen children’s trusts in the 2008-9 parliamentary session.
It was welcomed by John Dunford, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, who said: “If children’s trusts are to be at the heart of effective local services, schools must be involved.”
The duty will also apply to any new academy schools being set up, although not existing ones.
In March, the Department for Children, Schools and Families announced councils would have greater powers to oversee schools’ admissions policies after it was revealed that some were breaching rules to prioritise looked-after children (www.communitycare.co.uk/107589).
● Children’s trusts boards put on statutory footing.
● Local children and young people’s plans to be set up in all areas and make all public bodies, not just councils, responsible for drawing up and implementation.