Department for Education and Skills officials attempted to reassure delegates over the role of academies in relation to children in care at the National Children’s and Adult Services Conference this week.
Numerous delegates raised concerns during the three-day conference about the inability of directors of children’s services to direct academies to accept children in care, even when they are full. Under the Education and Inspections Bill, directors of children’s services will have this power in relation to all other schools.
Director general for children, young people and families at the DfES Tom Jeffery failed to directly answer the question about how councils could ensure academies did not shirk their responsibilities towards this group of children. Director general for schools Ralph Tabberer, meanwhile, would only say that the department’s message to schools would be “responsibilities as well as choice”.
Speaking the previous day, Althea Efunshile, director for vulnerable children, said that although directors of children’s services would not have the power to direct academies to take children in care, the secretary of state for education would.
“Through their funding agreement with the secretary of state academies are bound to accept their share of vulnerable children,” she said. “The secretary of state has the right to direct.”
Jeffery and Tabberer were more convincing on the issue of tackling the mixed messages coming from the DfES on the Every Child Matters and raising school standards agendas.
“We have got one simple message: no more ambiguity,” Jeffery said. “We know there needs to be, in reality and in implementation on the ground, no more mixed messages. No more educational standards without Every Child Matters, no more Every Child Matters without standards.”