Ex-punk rat is teachers' pet

12th March 2004 at 00:00
Sir Bob Geldof has emerged as the staffroom favourite to become the new children's commissioner in England

Sir Bob Geldof has been nominated to stand for children's commissioner in England, by teachers proposing candidates for the job.

More serious contenders for the role, announced in the Government's Children Bill, include heads of children's charities such as Gillian Pugh, chief executive of the Coram Family childcare charity, Paul Ennals, of the National Children's Bureau and Anne Longfield, of 4Children, the out-of-school activities charity.

Television personality Esther Rantzen, the chair of Childline, has said she would drop everything to do the job, but she is not believed to have applied yet.

Teachers on The TES online staffroom, who have punted Sir Bob's name also mentioned children's writer Shirley Hughes.

A spokesman for the ex-punk, lead singer of the Boomtown Rats, organiser of and now television producer and campaigner for Africa, said: The job has, however, caused problems for the Children's Commissioner for Wales.

Under existing arrangements, Peter Clarke has no authority for any matters under the control of the Home Office because these are not devolved to the Welsh Assembly. Those responsibilities would come under the remit of his English counterpart, leaving the Welsh system split.

Mr Clarke said: "I have not been given the strongest remit possible to protect the children of Wales. Matters such as juvenile justice, secure units and the probation service are not part of it." Mr Clarke is now seeking a meeting with ministers to clarify the anomalies.

North of the border the Scottish Parliament and Kathleen Marshall, the newly appointed children's commissioner, have control in these areas.

Teaching unions in England have expressed concern over the role of lead professionals. Under the plans, each young person who comes to the attention of at least two services will be assigned a single named person who will ensure the child receives the services that they need.

However, John Bangs, head of education at the National Union of Teachers, said the lead professional should be specially-trained and work outside of school. "Teachers would face enormous expectations which they might not be able to realise because of the other pressures they are under. This has potentially serious consequences for children at risk," Mr Bangs said.

The draft Children Bill, published last week, also revealed tougher moves to improve the education of children in care.

Local authorities will be given a specific duty to promote the educational achievements of looked-after children and monitor their achievements.

The DfES has published a document, Every child matters: next steps, which explores how the Children Bill and other changes will transform the way children are treated.

Every child matters: next steps is at www.dfes.gov.uk

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