Children's Plan does not hold a threat for us

7th December 2007 at 00:00
Ed Balls announced the Government's intention of producing a Children's Plan when he first took over as Secretary of State. Next Wednesday it will be published. It is in line with renaming the Department of Education and Skills to encompass its wider role of looking after more aspects of children's lives - a move I welcomed, but one that is feared by many heads.

The Children and Family parts of the new department have been strengthened. Many heads are worried that the plan will divert the work of schools too much into such issues. They are worried that resources for schools will go to wider children's services, with local authorities unable to deliver what is expected of them.

Many believe that schools will not be able to focus on raising standards if they have to concentrate on the wider children's agenda. I believe that their fears are unfounded. Ofsted already inspects schools on the five Every Child Matters outcomes. Good schools have always done everything they can to encourage the development of the whole child. The Children's Plan should tap into this deep sense of moral purpose among heads and teachers to do their best to increase the life chances of young people. But it must do so without specifying in detail how schools should achieve it and without requiring them to satisfy umpteen new performance indicators.

My experience as head of an extended school - which covers social care, mental and sexual health, the police and many voluntary agencies - tells me that when the various aspects of a child's life are properly lined up, they thrive, both at school and outside. And that requires schools to work in collaboration with other agencies.

In our school we have gone one step further by deliver youth services along with our voluntary partners. This does involve additional work and stress but we know that it will in the long run make an impact on the achievement of our young people. Many issues we deal with are a result of things that happen at night and weekends. Being able to provide quality youth services is very important in tackling anti-social behaviour and community cohesion.

It also provides additional opportunities to deliver a youth service curriculum and will help to find those "hard-to-reach" youngsters. I know heads worry about the additional burden that offering extended services brings, but all it requires is a new approach to leadership. Distributed leadership is the only way to go. This is not just a case of delegating power but of distributed power. Once the head can let go and let others lead different areas of the school then the burden is not so great.

Quite the opposite, as the additional services provide a comprehensive menu of support for vulnerable young people and their families. Others worry about managing professionals from other services - something we have never had a problem with! I do not see the Children's Plan as a threat. I see it as an opportunity to reach out, to include our most vulnerable young people and their families and a way of raising achievement and standards across the board by providing equality of opportunity.

Many local authorities need to raise their game if they are to fulfil what the Children's Plan will expect of them as commissioners and co-ordinators of services. Schools need to take the opportunities offered by this recognition of the important role that we play in children's lives, not just in lessons.

Kenny Frederick, Headteacher of George Green Community School in Tower Hamlets, east London.

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