Bid to force schools to meet needs fails

Attempts to place a legal duty on schools to identify and meet the
needs of looked-after children in the Children Bill failed last
week – but could resurface at a later stage.

The bill already obliges local authorities to promote the
educational achievement of looked-after children. But the
Association of Directors of Social Services, the Local Government
Association and children’s charity the National Children’s Bureau
want the duty to be extended to individual schools.

Ann Baxter, director of social services at Stockton on Tees Council
and secretary of the children and families committee at the ADSS,
said she was “disappointed” by the amendment’s withdrawal.

Alison King, chair of the LGA’s social affairs and health
executive, said it was not enough to place a duty on local
authorities as schools played an “integral part” in ensuring
looked-after children reached their potential in education.

She added that legislative change was vital as current guidance
from the Department for Education and Skills was failing to improve
support for the group in schools.

Successful changes to the bill during report stage, however,
include placing a duty on local authorities in England and Wales to
take account of the wishes of a child in need when considering what
services to provide for them.

Meanwhile, Sure Start minister Baroness Ashton conceded in a letter
to the House of Lords’ constitution committee, published this week,
that she hoped to be able to make clearer in the bill the
“universality” of the proposed information database.

Her comments follow concerns raised by the committee in May that
the intention to include details on all children in the database,
not just children at risk, was only included in explanatory notes,
not in the bill itself.

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