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The dilly-dally don't doers?

Educationists are not the easiest people to deal with, the Scottish Executive's senior children's official told directors of education at the weekend.

Addressing the annual conference of the Association of Directors of Education in Scotland, Colin MacLean, head of the Executive's children, young people and social care group, said that at local meetings with different agencies to discuss the reform of children's services, "nobody has ever said education is the easiest service to work with".

Often, Mr MacLean said later, the answer was the police. "They are seen as coming to meetings with the authority to make decisions. Education people are seen as coming to meetings with a commitment to go away and think about things."

The key aim in working with other agencies to develop services for children is "less activity, and more information", he said.

Mr MacLean said a joined-up approach would not work without a common approach to quality and staff who worked effectively together - and that requires a common language. There had also to be co-ordinated mechanisms for planning, funding and management.

In his address, Peter Peacock, Education Minister, said that the school was a key agency. "We need to use the stability of the school in a child's life much more than we have done in the past. It means we shouldn't see schools as health-promoting schools or integrated schools or community schools - just as excellent schools."

But the conference, whose theme was "learning partnerships", heard that more positive action would be needed if the Executive's vision of "nurtured, achieving, active, respected and included" children was to be realised.

Roy Jobson, director in Edinburgh and new ADES president, called for a new "threshold of intervention". This was controversial, Mr Jobson acknowledged, and he would be accused of pandering to the nanny state. But, he added, intervention in a child's life should not simply be reserved for extreme cases of abuse or harm. There were also instances where parents were not providing children with adequate stimulation or support.

"If we are serious about attainment, these issues will not go away," Mr Jobson commented.

Mr MacLean noted that different agencies would differ in their attitudes to intervention. Social workers, for example, find it difficult to give priority to cases such as that of a 15-year-old, just about to leave school, who has been truanting but not offending. Schools, however, believe they should be a priority since these were the youngsters most likely to end up in the NEET group (not in education, employment or training).

An even greater challenge for schools is to ask whether they should have a role in reducing youth offending, Mr MacLean said. "Some would say no, others would say it is central given that a high proportion of offending takes place 9am to 4pm, Monday to Friday."

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