Peers fail to amend Children Bill to make schools work with agencies

Further attempts to place a duty on individual schools to
co-operate with other agencies to improve their pupils’ well-being
failed last week as the Children Bill completed its passage through
the House of Lords.

Baroness Sharp said many peers were surprised that schools were not
mentioned explicitly in the Bill as having a duty to co-operate,
“especially in view of the government’s wish to devolve local
education responsibilities to individual schools” as set out in the
new five-year education plan published earlier this month.

She argued that most children would not be attending one of the 240
“full service” extended schools promised by 2006, so the full
co-operation of non-extended schools would be required if young
people were to take advantage of other services.

“If the schools do not want to co-operate, those children will
continue to fall through the gap,” Sharp warned the House.

Rejecting the amendment, Sure Start minister Baroness Ashton denied
that schools would be reluctant to engage in the children’s
services reforms agenda, adding that the information-sharing
database and common assessment framework would help them become
more involved.

Ashton added that she would ensure that guidance sent out on the
duty to promote the educational attainment of children would
reinforce the importance of giving governors and teachers the right
kind of advice and training to support looked-after children.

In relation to the children’s commissioner post, Ashton hinted that
amendments made during the report stage which would restrict his or
her general function to England only, could be overturned in the
House of Commons.

“We are urgently considering ways of paving the way for effective
working between the commissioners so that they can be the first
port of call and single initial point of contact for children in
those countries,” Ashton said.

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