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Bill opens door to new type of community work

The planned Children's Bill, announced in the Queen's Speech last week, could lead to new job possibilities for teachers, working more closely with parents and the community, and liaising with health and social services.

Lucy Draper, head of the Thomas Coram parents' centre, made the switch years ago and believes "loads of teachers want these kinds of jobs". Now she feels that if she was not working with both parents and children she would be missing something.

"I have difficulty with schools that imagine they know the real child without knowing anything about what the rest of their life is like," she says.

Parents, too, need to know about the child's life in school, she adds. Lucy originally trained as an early-years teacher, but moved quickly into a job in a non-local authority community nursery.

At the time of the 1989 Children Act, she worked for Southwark education authority training teachers and other employees in child-related issues, including child protection. The authority was trying to bridge the then sharp divide between education and care. Before joining Coram, she managed the voluntary organisation Parents and Co, which supports families with difficulties.

She says the sort of teachers who might want to make the transition to link work are those who have become interested in parents through running coffee mornings or doing home visits. Other candidates might be interested in psychology, or in linking psychology with family issues.

"Here, what happens is that some of the staff in the nursery become interested in what goes on in the parents' centre," she says. "There's more flexibility and less paperwork." Qualified teachers have been hired by the parents' centre and do not need any other qualifications.

Bernadette Duffy, head of the Thomas Coram children's centre, also thinks many teachers would be interested in new parent and community link jobs.

"If you feel constrained by curriculum, social work roles could be a new lease of life," she says.

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