Ex-punk rat is teachers' pet

12th March 2004 at 00:00
Staff want Bob Geldof to be the new children's commissioner. Michael Shaw and Dorothy Lepkowska report

Sir Bob Geldof has been nominated to stand for children's commissioner by teachers suggesting candidates for the job.

More serious contenders rumoured for the role, created by the Government's Children Bill, include Gillian Pugh of the Coram Family Childcare charity, Paul Ennals, of the National Children's Bureau, and Anne Longfield of 4Children. None of them confirmed that they had applied.

TV 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 in 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 Live Aid and now TV producer and campaigner for Africa, said he was extremely unlikely to apply, although he was "always surprising people".

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."

He is now seeking a meeting with ministers to clarify the anomalies.

Teaching unions in England have expressed concern over the role of lead professionals. Under the plans, young people who come to the attention of at least two services will be assigned a single named person to ensure they receive the services 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 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," he said.

The draft Children Bill was published last week alongside a document, Every Child Matters: next steps, which explores how the Bill will transform the way young people are treated.

It reveals that the Department for Education and Skills plans to look again over the next few months at the impact the changes will have on schools'

workloads, including the creation of "lead professionals".

The Bill will also result in tougher safeguards 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 performance in tests.

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