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Reforms may damage standards

Sweeping changes to local government designed to prevent child abuse could damage the drive to raise school standards, senior local government figures warned this week.

Councillors and education officers fear that school improvement experts may be sidelined as councils switch their focus from education to other children's services.

Their comments reflect growing concern in schools and councils about the Children's Green Paper, which aims to promote closer working between social services, education and health.

Under the proposals, education and children's social services departments could be merged and led by a new director of children's services.

John Chowcat, general secretary of the National Association of Educational Inspectors Advisers and Consultants, said the Government must provide training for council officials to ensure that career paths for school improvement specialists are safeguarded.

Graham Lane, the Local Government Association's chair of education, said:

"There is a real danger that we may find the focus and money moving onto the care agenda and away from the standards agenda. Ministers need to avoid a one-size-fits-all approach and allow councils to adopt the approach that best suits their circumstances."

The National Union of Teachers said it is concerned that teachers may be made to be the lead professional, the individual responsible for a child causing concern. But the Department for Education and Skills said support staff are expected to take on that role.

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