Councils struggling on education, say school leaders
Local councils are struggling to cope with their responsibilities in education and safeguarding children, school leaders warned today.
The Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) said that in the last 18 months, schools have lost out as the Government has placed more expectations on children's services departments.
Many departments do not have the capacity or the expertise to deliver new education initiatives such as the Building Schools for the Future programme, which aims to rebuild or refurbish every secondary school in England, or National Challenge, which focuses on the poorest performing secondaries in the country.
A survey of 65 ASCL union representatives in 150 local authorities reveals that three quarters (75 per cent) believe that school services are not as good since councils were made to merge their education and children's services departments, following the Children's Act 2004.
Just over one in five (22 per cent) said they thought the service for schools was the same as it was, while just 3 per cent said they thought the service was better.
The survey comes as Lord Laming publishes his review of progress made on implementing child safeguarding reforms.
In his address to the ASCL's annual conference this weekend, general secretary Dr John Dunford will say: "The job of Director of Children's Services (DCS) has become the job from hell - responsible for everything that happens to children in their area, accountable to a huge range of bodies, spending a high proportion of the working week on corporate committees, and as vulnerable as school leaders to being sacked. The risk is that some DCSs take their eye off the educational ball.
"The Government needs to be much clearer about the role they want local authorities and children's trusts to play, and more realistic about their ability to play it effectively. The joining up of local services, so that they provide timely and effective support to front line institutions, is the job of local authorities and children's trusts. That is where their focus should be, and not as the local enforcement arm of the Department for Children, Schools and Families, delivering dozens of school improvement initiatives.
"School improvement is the job of schools. That's where the expertise lies. The local authority role in this field is to monitor and, if things are starting to go wrong, commission support from other schools."
Dr Dunford added that while it is right in principle that all children's services are properly co-ordinated, paperwork must be simplified so that professionals can spend more time helping young people.
The Common Assessment Framework, a national standardised form, meant to provide earlier identification of issues, has become a particular "hindrance", Dr Dunford will say.
David Cokeham, an ASCL union representative in the Midlands, said: "The local authority has taken a long time to come to grips with the change in structure. In seeking to centralise the services they provide, the specific requirements of schools have sometimes been overlooked. There has certainly been a loss of expertise as departments have been restructured."
General Election 2015: Tories suspend candidate who said she would never support 'the Jew' Ed Miliband
Bali Nine executions: Indonesia confirms killings of Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran will go ahead
The four utterly contradictory polls that tell the story of this election and why it is pointless trying to predict the outcome
General Election 2015: Prospect of Labour-SNP coalition makes one in four voters less likely to support Ed Miliband, says survey
Baltimore riots: Furious mother marches her son home live on TV
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
The sickening truth about food banks that the Tories don't want you to know
Aaron and Melissa Klein: Oregon anti-gay bakers ordered to pay $135,000 after refusing to make cake for same-sex wedding
Andrew Lloyd Webber: Phantom of the Opera writer mocked after issuing a warning about Ed Miliband and Nicola Sturgeon
EU exit would hit UK economy much harder than neighbouring countries, study finds
General election 2015: Labour will toughen hate crimes legislation surrounding Islamophobia
- 1 Frank Lampard's face drops when Holly Willoughby introduces him as a 'Man City legend'
- 2 'Do not give them a reason': Baltimore man divides police and rioters in hope of avoiding violence
- 3 X Factor in crisis as numbers of people auditioning plummets
- 4 Baltimore riots: Furious mother marches her son home live on TV
- 5 General Election 2015: Stephen Hawking says he will vote Labour