Proceed with caution

The Children Bill and the Budget bring good news for children.
Establishing a set of common outcomes, influenced by
children’s own response to the green paper consultation,
should make it easier for agencies and professionals with widely
different functions to find a workable basis for collaboration.

This will become all the more important as the government pushes
forward its plans to site a wide range of provision and services on
school premises. There are good arguments for developing local
centres where children and their families can get everything from
child care to inoculations, but the obstacles to using schools
shouldn’t be underestimated. Proponents of extended schools
point out that these are publicly owned buildings which are empty
for many hours a day and many weeks every year. But would they
countenance letting another family use their home during the day on
the basis that it’s empty for 10 hours while they are out at
work? Professionals, and children, need to know when they go home
at night that their workspace is secure. The music co-ordinator at
my local primary school, where the after-school club uses the
school hall, was upset to find the remains of tea time snacks
stuffed into wind instruments. Equally, as a play worker pointed
out at the recent 4Children launch conference, children who have
been in a classroom all day need to be able to let off steam after
school – often while teachers are trying to catch up with marking.
Not only is the situation full of potential for conflicts between
professionals, but children are likely to be confused by different
sets of rules at different times. More money, more provision, more
integration – all warmly welcome. But change must be slowly and
carefully managed, and concerns taken seriously.

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