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A burning reason to integrate

The TES ScotlandEdinburgh City Council conference last Friday (page six) was a notable contribution to the debate on integrated children's services - for many reasons, but for one in particular. There is certainly now a growing awareness that, if a single-door approach to these services is to work, the various professions have to open up many more doors to each other.

The value of doing so was made manifest in the address by Professor Phil Hanlon, the public health specialist. His "burning deck" warning on Scotland's dismal health record was rightly described by Colin MacLean, head of the children and young people's group at the Scottish Executive Education Department, as one of the most powerful he had ever heard.

It was a perfect illustration of the need for greater awareness within each profession of the context in which the others work, and therefore of the context in which (in the case of schools) pupils live. The importance of making connections between services hardly needs stating. As Mr MacLean observed, it is not fanciful to suggest we may well be able to test the effectiveness of our early years provision by the size of the prison population in 20 years' time.

But nobody attending the Edinburgh conference was under any illusion that eroding professional boundaries - indeed jealousies - is likely to be anything other than an uphill struggle. There has to be a vehicle to kick-start progress up this particular hill, and perhaps integrated community schools may provide the stimulus. If so, as the ICS integration manager for West Dunbartonshire Council, reminded us, we should not expect quick fixes: it could take between 10 years and a generation.

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