One of the goals of Every Child Matters and recent government policy is early intervention. This means identifying children in need of support before any chance of helping them is lost. The key to early intervention is getting information about children at risk into the hands of those trained to deal with it as soon as possible.
Teachers are in a good position to be able to help with this. While a child only spends one-fifth of their childhood at school, teachers have day-to-day contact with them and can often be the first to spot when something is wrong.
Consider the difference it would make, for example, if social-care teams in a local authority had direct access to a child's spiralling record of school truancy. This could trigger an immediate assessment of whether there were wider issues to be addressed. At the moment, however, few authorities share information in this way.
I would encourage authorities to investigate how they can share (where appropriate) relevant data, recorded by schools, on behavioural issues, truancy and achievement to help them spot the early signs of a child in need.
A combined information system incorporating all the core children's services functions, including education and social care, may be the only way to do this effectively. This would help ensure other teams could be involved with children in need from the earliest moment, making teachers' jobs easier and helping young people to live happy and rewarding lives.
Nic Fell, Product director, Capita Children's Services, Bedford.