On the naughty step

    Education secretary Charles Clarke could do with a few lessons from
    Channel 4’s Supernanny. While the programme’s Jo Frost
    tames tyrannical toddlers by laying down consistent house rules,
    Clarke is turning into the king of mixed messages.

    On the one hand, the Children Bill preaches better co-operation
    between authorities with responsibility for children, whether in
    education, social care or child care. The government is also
    expanding state-funded nursery places for two year olds, and
    expects council-led children’s trusts to offer 12 and a half hours’
    free placements to three and four year olds – “educare” is the new
    buzzword.

    However, Clarke’s five-year education plan encourages schools to
    apply for foundation status and the greater financial independence
    and freedom from local authority control that go with it. But
    school independence leads to ring-fenced education budgets,
    ultimately restricting council flexibility in spending on all care
    services. And while there may be less emphasis on league tables,
    schools are still driven by educational targets which give no
    credit to integrating with other support services.

    Ultimately, the aims of education and social care are linked. In
    many cases schools cannot hope to help underperforming pupils
    unless those same children get proper housing and family support.
    Introducing foundation schools risks losing this rule in a
    confusion of other priorities.

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